Children’s accounts of labelling and stigmatization in private schools in Delhi, India and the Right to Education Act




Exclusion, private schools, India, children’s experiences, participatory research


India’s Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 compels private schools to reserve a proportion of their seats for free for disadvantaged children. Although controversial, it is idealized as an equity measure for inclusion in and through education. This small-scale study, feeding into a larger research project, details children’s accounts of their everyday lived experiences at private schools in Delhi. Children reported labelling students by teachers as ‘naughty’ or academically ‘weak’ or ‘incapable’ as a pervasive practice. These ‘designated identities’ (Sfard & Prusak, 2005) were reinforced by teachers and through peer interactions. They were internalized by participants about their peers and affected how they interacted with them. Peers who were labelled were reported to be stigmatized. Surprisingly, neither caste nor gender were mentioned as explicitly marking participant experiences. The paper also discusses the participatory methods employed in the study as a further contribution to the literature on private schooling. Data are from participatory ‘draw-and-talk’ sessions conducted with 16 children in 2015-16 from marginalized backgrounds, accessing six different private schools in one catchment area, half of whom secured a free private school seat. Participants were from amongst the first cohorts eligible for the free seats provision.  


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Author Biographies

Michael Lafleur, University of Guelph

Michael Lafleur is an Education Abroad Adviser at the Centre for International Programs, University of Guelph.

Prachi Srivastava, University of Western Ontario

Dr. Prachi Srivastava is Associate Professor, University of Western Ontario, Visiting Adjunct Professor, School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa, and Senior Visiting Fellow, Centre for International Education, University of Sussex. She has published on ‘low-fee private’ schooling, education privatization, and the role of private actors in education in the Global South; global policy action on the right to education, and education access and equity in view of private schooling and the right to education in India. She recently directed a major international collaborative research program funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Twitter: @PrachiSrivas.




How to Cite

Lafleur, M., & Srivastava, P. (2019). Children’s accounts of labelling and stigmatization in private schools in Delhi, India and the Right to Education Act. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 27, 135.



Globalization, Privatization, Marginalization