Interrogating The Essence Of Social Capital In Indian Education: A Perspective


India is one of the four fast growing countries, commonly known as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) economies. However, education indicators in India show a mixed picture. Forty-five percent of the total population in India is illiterate (Census, 2011), among those who are literate, 26 percent have below-primary-level education, 16 percent have education up to upper primary level (6-8), and 14 percent are tenth-grade pass outs.

The implementation of the 2009 Right to Education Act (RTE Act), the law, which was designed to guarantee a good education to all Indian children between the ages of 6 and 14, was hailed as a landmark reform. But six years on, school enrollment has hardly improved, and actual learning has sharply deteriorated. Since the implementation of the RTE Act, total enrollment in public schools has fallen by 11.6 million students. At the beginning of the 2014-15 academic year, nearly 97,000 public schools in India had 20 or fewer students.

On the plight of the current educational scenario, I quote an eminent Indian educationist Prof.D.S.Kothari (1964-66), who stated, “Knowledge is vitally important; but if it is to transform society from a state of relative stagnation to one of dynamism and progress there must be general willingness and determination to make use of it in the service of the community.”

Decades after independence education in India is yet to attain the desired goals. Education is a lagging indicator of development in India, despite it being perceived as a tool for development and transformation of economy, as well as for accumulation of social assets and formation of social capital.

In the present day education, it is highly observed that there is a steady erosion of the government school system in India. The quality of government schools have deteriorated despite a considerable expansion of such schools over time. The distance between the new genre of students and the educational practitioners has increased due to the declining progress and relevance of government schools.

All of this has brought a need to focus on school reforms — reforms that can bring real and sustained learning among students. It is high time our schools foster what sociologists label as “social capital” – the value embedded in relations among teachers, and between teachers and school administrators. Social capital can hold a school together, it complements teacher skill, it enhances teachers’ individual classroom efforts, and it enables collective commitment to bring about school-wide change. Literature has also conceived social capital as interactions and civic engagements in collective causes on public life. Such engagements prove to be successful to resolve common problems or help organize demand for concerned government authorities to address such problems.

Based on this perspective the social influence can prove to be quite important for the promotion of schooling in a multi-segregated society such as India, where the social endowments have potential to become germane. Thus, it is critical for the concept of social capital, civil society and school effectiveness by scholars, researchers, educators, and policymakers to be deliberated.

Social Capital and School Effectiveness

The total quality management model defines school effectiveness as a set of elements in the input, process, and output of schools that provide services to satisfy the needs and expectations of all stakeholders.

School effectiveness seems to be challenging because what makes for an effective school is often subject to change and the perception of what makes an effective school changes as societal values evolve. It further gets complicated when parents, students, teachers, school board members, school administrators and policy makers have different and frequently conflicting effectiveness criteria.

The Indian education system has observed transition, from a traditional emphasis on social and emotional growth of students to the present day emphasis on student achievement and accountability. Though there are several approaches to school effectiveness, the social system approach is more acceptable in currently as it stresses the importance of school flexibility, internal process, and awareness of the external environment.

According to Halpern, 2005, social capital should also have significant impacts on educational outcome. In this sense, it is necessary to consider how to maintain, acquire, and manage school social capital, in addition to the financial and human capital, to improve school effectiveness.

In India a pressing question is: Can social capital influence the marginalized in the rural India, where school participation is still a challenge? If yes, than it’s high time; our marginalized communities acknowledge the strength of social capital for improvements in school participation. Based on the assumption that a “perfectly competitive market ensures market efficiency” the Indian school system can increase its efficiency if the parents of marginal communities create pressure in making the educational system efficient. Therefore local bodies; Village Education Committees and the Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) can proactively participate in education-related issues. Thus, strengthening the community will help schools increase participation rates and improve school quality. Therefore it can be assumed that the social capital can influence the creation of human capital in India.

Promotion of Social Capital in Government Schools

Based on the perspective of social network theory, school social capital is the social resources embedded in the social networks of a school used for the survival and development of the school (Zhang, 2004). In the school context, social networks between teachers and students are common. Therefore, it is not surprising that these kind of social networks will render an important form of social capital toward school effectiveness.

Pianta, Steinberg, and Rollins (1995) point out that positive relationship between students and teachers will carry out a wide range of cognitive and academic achievement to students. This is because students can gain the social resources like higher expectations, considerations, attachments and social support from teachers. Therefore, it facilitates students’ classroom adjustment, performances, progress and personal development.

Government schools in India cater to children from low economic backgrounds, whose parents are either illiterate or uninterested to meet teachers and school authorities. Therefore it is a big challenge and an immediate need for the government schools to promote the formation of social capital, by maintaining social networks, e.g. increasing parental involvement in schools by encouraging parent volunteers to help teachers organize school activities, which to a large extent increase student achievement levels and help teachers alleviate students’ problems more easily with support of parents. But this is possible only with increased accountability on the part of the school leaders and administrators.

At the school level, the RTE 2009 mandates each school to have a School Management Committee (SMC) consisting of elected representatives of the local authority, a three-fourth majority of parent members are mostly from the marginalized population, and fifty percent women members. The SMC‘s are obligated to monitor the working of the school and prepare a recommended School Development Plan which is the basis for acquiring grants and monitoring the utilization of grants received by the government. Though it is mandated by law their existence and decision-making power varies across the country.


Education is not narrowly limited to classroom experiences, but a holistic and experiential learning aimed at social transformation. The collaborative and collective efforts of schools can bring community effectiveness. Social capital which is considered as a vital ingredient in economic development can be built through network of schools colleges’ communities and corporate sectors. School social capital can bring school effectiveness by realizing improvement in school functioning through social relations and social networks. The onus to manage school social capital lies with the school leaders and administrators, who need to promote trust, norms, and values shared by actors within and between networks and develop a school culture to bind all groups of people together. India must reorient its education policy to focus on improving students’ learning levels. Social capital is not merely an “input” to development, it is also one of its most significant outputs. The collective action by groups such as PTA’s have the potential to improve the functioning of schools. Thus harnessing the social capital of community based groups could lead to building bridges between the community and the school.

Dr. Swaleha Sindhi

Dr. Swaleha Sindhi currently teaches at the Department of Educational Administration, in The M.S. University of Baroda, Gujarat, India, she has a long Teaching and Administration experience in School Education and has received the Best Teacher Award in the year 2007 for Excellence in Teaching. Her doctorate is in the area of Quality Assurance Systems in Secondary Schools. Her current research follows two core themes: Quality Assurance in Education and Policies in Secondary Schools besides other areas like Comparative and International Education, Girls Education, Educational Management and Economics of Education. Dr.Sindhi has also been writing columns on education theme in newspapers and journals and has more than thirty two research articles to her credit. She is the Vice President of Indian Ocean Comparative Education Society (IOCES) and a Life Member of Comparative Education Society of India (CESI).

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