This dissertation looks at the education systems in the state of Maharashtra, India, and in England, in the context of the globalisation of neo-liberalism in education. It seeks to discover what role the global right to education discourse plays in the promotion of neo-liberal education policy in Maharashtra and the consequences of such policy for teachers’ work, learners and the school system. It asks if there are commonalities between these consequences and those in England and whether there is an alternative strategy being developed in Maharashtra to the neo-liberal one. Using a vertical case study approach, it looks first at the global context and its consequences at the country and state levels. In Maharashtra, it concentrates on Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), the Indian government programme set up to realise universal elementary education. It goes on to look at consequences at the local level, through interviews with teachers, a self-completion questionnaire and observation in a low-income school in Mumbai. In particular it seeks to allow the voices of teachers to be heard and attended to. It also looks for alternative responses to the neo-liberal ones to the problems involved in providing education to all children in Maharashtra.

In order to compare the consequences of the neo-liberalisation of education to those in England, the literature on this subject is reviewed, concentrating on those studies which use teacher voice and interviews as part of their evidence.

The research concludes that global right to education discourse plays an important role in the promotion of neo-liberal policy both through NGOs, in particular Pratham and Teach for India, and through SSA. It shows how a ‘discourse of derision’ about public education, and the teachers who work in it is promoted, and has the effect of advancing the privatising of education and how many aspects of the SSA have detrimental consequences for teachers’ work and learners’ experience. It concludes that while many of these consequences are similar to those felt by teachers and learners in England, there are also differences.


It identifies an active campaign in Maharashtra, both to resist neo-liberal policies such as privatisation, and to promote an alternative vision of equal and democratic education. It suggests that teaching unions in the North should re-examine their international work with the Global South, moving it away from the predominant development paradigm, which seeks to promote the global right to education, and more towards a model of reciprocity and solidarity with activists and unions in the Global South, who are developing their own ways of contesting neo-liberal policy and promoting an alternative.