Connecting families with schools: The bureaucratised relations of accountability’ in Indian elementary schooling

Taylor & Francis,


Increasing community and parental connection with schools is a widely advocated means of improving levels of student learning and the quality and accountability of education systems across South Asia. This paper draws on a mixed-methods study of accountability relations in education in the Indian states of Rajasthan and Bihar. It explores two questions: what formal platforms exist to enhance connections between socially disadvantaged families and the schools serving them; and (how) do they influence engagement with student learning? It finds that various platforms have proliferated across public, low-cost private and non-government schools. But, while they promote enrolment attendance and monitoring, a substantive focus on student learning is empirically demonstrated to be missing everywhere. The paper argues that an apparently surprising similarity of (dis)connection is located in system features that are common across school types, locations and social structures. It proposes that this is a field’ in which connection, facilitated by various platforms, is performed according to bureaucratised norms of accountability that even pervade family and community responses. Seeing this as a socially constituted field’ that constrains meaningful discussion of learning across schooling provision for disadvantaged families contribute new insight for accountability-focused reforms in education.