Bureaucratic activism and radical school change in Tamil Nadu, India
Purchase on Springer.com
$39.95 / €34.95 / £29.95*
Rent the article at a discountRent now
* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.
In 2007, Activity Based Learning (ABL), a child-centered, activity-based method of pedagogical practice, transformed classrooms in all of the over 37,000 primary-level government schools in Tamil Nadu, India. The large scale, rapid pace, and radical nature of educational change sets the ABL initiative apart from most school reform efforts. Interested in understanding how this movement achieved such success, we conducted oral history and ethnographic interviews, as well as an extensive review of reform documentation, to develop a historical case study of the ABL initiative. In this article, we present one of the findings of this study, arguing that the pursuit of ABL in Tamil Nadu was characterized by varied types of bureaucratic activism. State-level administrators, whom we consider bureaucratic activists, engaged strategies for change that combined both movement-building tactics and the conventional tools of administrative power. These reformers became pedagogical experts, expended considerable time and effort promoting the method, and engaged in a participatory, grassroots approach to pursuing the ABL reform within the state education sector. The egalitarian spirit with which ABL was promoted appeared to contribute to a moral authority and good will that generated support even when administrators used traditional tools of bureaucratic power, including top-down mandates, to institutionalize the reform. Ultimately, we argue, in their bureaucratic activism to change the government schools these administrators contributed to visible shifts in the nature of bureaucratic practice itself.
- Akila, R. (2011). A trigger for change in primary education: An evaluation of ABL in Tamil Nadu, 2009. Evaluation commissioned by Government of Tamil Nadu and conducted in cooperation with SSA, Tamil Nadu.
- Allen, K., Daro, V., & Holland, D. C. (2007). Becoming an environmental justice activist. In R. Sandler & P. C. Pezzullo (Eds.), Environmental justice and environmentalism: The social justice challenge to the environmental movement (pp. 105–134). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
- Banaszak, L. A. (2005). Inside and outside the state: Movement insider status, tactics, and public policy achievements. In D. S. Meyer, V. Jenness, & H. Ingram (Eds.), Routing the opposition: Social movements, public policy, and democracy (pp. 149–176). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
- Diani, M., & McAdam, D. (Eds.). (2003). Social movements and networks: Relational approaches to collective action. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Dyer, C. (1996). Primary teachers and policy innovation in India: Some neglected issues. International Journal of Educational Development, 16(1), 27–40. CrossRef
- Dyer, C. (1999). Researching the implementation of educational policy: A backward mapping approach. Comparative Education, 5(1), 45–61. CrossRef
- Dyer, C., Choksi, A., Awasty, V., Iyer, U., Moyade, R., Nigam, N., et al. (2004). Knowledge for teacher development in India: The importance of ‘local knowledge’ for in-service education. International Journal of Educational Development, 24, 39–52. CrossRef
- Fullan, M. (1982). The meaning of educational change. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
- Fullan, M. (2005). The meaning of educational change: A quarter of a century of learning. In A. Lieberman (Ed.), The roots of educational change (pp. 202–216). New York, NY: Springer. CrossRef
- Gupta, A. (2006). Early childhood education, postcolonial theory, and teaching practices in India. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. CrossRef
- Holland, D. (2003). Multiple identities in practice: On the dilemmas of being a hunter and an environmentalist in the U.S.A. Focaal—European Journal of Anthropology, 42, 23–41.
- Holland, D. C., Fox, G., & Daro, V. (2008). Social movements and collective identity: A decentered, dialogic view. Anthropological Quarterly, 81(1), 95–126. CrossRef
- Holland, D., Lachicotte, W., Skinner, D., & Cain, C. (1998). Identity and agency in cultural worlds. London: Harvard University Press.
- Holland, D., & Lave, J. (2001). History in person: An introduction. In D. Holland & J. Lave (Eds.), History in person: Enduring struggles, contentious practice, intimate identities (pp. 3–33). Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press.
- Lambright, W. H., & O’Gorman, M. J. (1992). New York State’s response to AIDS: Evolution of an advocacy agency. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory: J-PART, 2(2), 175–198.
- Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. CrossRef
- Morone, J. A., Kilbreth, E. H., & Langwell, K. M. (2001). Back to school: A health care strategy for youth. Health Affairs, 20(1), 122–136. CrossRef
- Niesz, T. (2008). Professional movements, local appropriations, and the limits of educational critique: The cultural production of mixed messages at an urban middle school. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 21(4), 327–346.
- Niesz, T. (2010). Chasms and bridges: Generativity in the space between educators’ communities of practice. Teaching and Teacher Education, 26(1), 37–44.
- Niesz, T., & Krishnamurthy, R. (forthcoming). Movement actors in the education bureaucracy: The figured world of Activity Based Learning in Tamil Nadu. Anthropology & Education Quarterly.
- Pai, S. (2005). Universal elementary education in India: An exploratory study of movements in civil society. In A. Swain (Ed.), Education as social action: Knowledge, identity and power (pp. 75–104). New York, NY: Palgrave.
- Santoro, W. A., & McGuire, G. M. (1997). Social movement insiders: The impact of institutional activists on affirmative action and comparable worth policies. Social Issues, 44(4), 503–519.
- Sarason, S. (1971). The culture of the school and the problem of change. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
- Sarason, S. (1993). The predictable failure of school reform. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
- SchoolScape. (2009). Activity Based Learning: Effectiveness of ABL under SSA. Report of the baseline and year-end surveys by SchoolScape, Centre for Educators and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Government of Tamil Nadu, India.
- Sibal to visit activity-based learning schools in State. (2010). The Hindu. http://www.hindu.com/2010/07/09/stories/2010070962160700.htm.
- Simmonds, K. C. (1985). The politicization of bureaucracies in developing countries: St. Kitts-Nevis, a case study. Phylon, 46(1), 58–70. CrossRef
- Williams, R. H. (2002). From the “beloved community” to “family values”: Religious language, symbolic repertoires, and democratic culture. In D. S. Meyer, N. Whittier, & B. Robnett (Eds.), Social movements: Identity, culture, and the state (pp. 247–265). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
- Zwarich, J. (2009). The bureaucratic activist federal filmmakers and social change in the U.S. Department of agriculture’s tick eradication campaign. The Moving Image, 9(1), 19–53. CrossRef
- Bureaucratic activism and radical school change in Tamil Nadu, India
Journal of Educational Change
Volume 14, Issue 1 , pp 29-50
- Cover Date
- Print ISSN
- Online ISSN
- Springer Netherlands
- Additional Links
- Activity Based Learning
- Bureaucratic activism
- School reform movements
- Tamil Nadu