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Is Education News?

This article reports the findings of a study that examined the nature of school education-related reporting in the Mumbai edition of a national newspaper for the period September 2008 to 2009, the period in which the Right to Education Act was debated and passed by Parliament. Content analysis of all stories pertaining to school education and appearing in all sections revealed that education news accounted for a mere 1.6% of all news on an average annually, and a mere 3% of this reporting pertained to rural areas. The news was overwhelmingly related to the concerns of the middle-class English-medium education readership. The RTE Act itself received very limited reporting.

Is Education News? Vidya K S, Padma M Sarangapani times, Naregal (1999) notes that in the first phase, the overt aim was to educate the native – contributing to the formation of a bilingual elite class – who in turn started newspapers in both English and

This article reports the findings of a study that examined the nature of school education-related reporting in the Mumbai edition of a national newspaper for the period September 2008 to 2009, the period in which the Right to Education Act was debated and passed by Parliament. Content analysis of all stories pertaining to school education and appearing in all sections revealed that education news accounted for a mere 1.6% of all news on an average annually, and a mere 3% of this reporting pertained to rural areas. The news was overwhelmingly related to the concerns of the middleclass English-medium education readership. The RTE Act itself received very limited reporting.

This article is based on the first author’s MA dissertation, carried out under the supervision of the second author. The authors are grateful to Manish Jain and Rahul Mukhopadhyay for detailed and useful feedback.

Vidya K S ( is at the School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Padma M Sarangapani ( is with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

Economic & Political Weekly

october 15, 2011

he mass media, particularly print, is an important player in democratic societies, contributing to shaping

public opinion and engaging citizens in

i ssues concerning the public good. The

space and coverage that the media gives

to areas such as education and health are

significant indicators of the developmental

importance of these issues in a society. In

a multilingual and multicultural country

like India, several forms of media in both

English and vernacular languages coexist

with each catering to its own audience.

With profits gaining dominant focus

within the media industry, there is an

acknowledged shortage in development

r eporting. Commentators observe that

media houses now function as for-profit

corporations first and holders of the public

trust only next (Vincent and Mahesh 2005).

Given the complexities and compulsions

against which media houses have reposi

tioned themselves vis-à-vis their readers,

their shareholders, the State and society,

this study sets out to understand the

media’s treatment of the education sector.

Being simultaneously an important public

and private good, as well as a significant

development concern for the Indian state,

an understanding of the nature of report

ing of education in the press would be

useful. Such an understanding would help

apprehend the current role that the media

perceives for itself in constituting the public

imagination vis-á-vis national and regional

concerns, as well as provide an insight into

the dominant concerns of the reader group

as interpreted by it.

This article presents the findings of a

small study undertaken to understand the

nature of news pertaining to school edu

cation that appeared in one English

n ational daily in the city of Mumbai, over

a period of one year.

1 Press in India and Maharashtra

Drawing attention to two important phases in the history of the press in colonial

vol xlvi no 42

the vernacular. The aims then shifted from educating the natives to building p olitical momentum against colonial rule. Post Independence, the vernacular press experienced difficulties both linguistically

– given variations of grammar, vocabulary, idiom – and technologically. However, the English print medium enjoyed the support of advertising, from both national and state governments and later from private business, targeting the presumed purchasing power of the English press reading public (Jeffrey 1997a: 61).

The media scene in India is “vibrantly active” and provides space for alternative forms of media. But the functioning of most dominant media organisations in the country, across print, broadcast and

o nline, both vernacular and English, have moved towards the principles of the competitive market. Jeffrey (1997a) traces these developments to the economic reforms in the late 1980s, which led to unprecedented volumes of advertising revenue flowing to media organisations.

In the particular context of Mumbai, Jeffrey (1997b: 384) notes:

Mumbai’s dominance distorts any attempt to take simple snapshots of ‘Maharashtra’ as a whole. Though Maharashtra in the 1990s was India’s most urbanised major state with 39% of the population living in cities, onethird of those urbanites lived in Mumbai.

Mumbai, as a city of migrants, sees the flourishing of several vernaculars including Gujarati, Hindi, Urdu, Sindhi, Tamil and Malayalam. English dailies also flourish, and arguably are indicative of the large and growing middle class in the city. The English and vernacular presses play different roles in the formation of and appeal to the national versus regional identities of their primary readership groups. The readership of any newspaper can be expected to follow linguistic and regional lines.

Jeffrey notes that the vernacular press operates in a highly segmented market and that an “unpredictable mix of business sense, technical mastery and cultural intimacy” (1997b: 384) account for their popularity. “[I]n spite of its recent shift t owards marketing and management strategies”, some like Sakal, “still remain imbued with idealism of the nationalist period” (1997b: 384).

Thus the value framework within which news is produced includes a historical l egacy of contributing to the formation of n ationalist political sentiment and the n otion of a public and citizenry, during the freedom struggle and soon after Independence. Alongside is a particular readership group and the significance of its perceived culture, politics (linguistic and regional) and needs. Not least, the framework also includes enabling the maximisation of advertising revenues, with a view to the dominant classes to which the readership belongs.

2 National Daily in Focus

Among the print media, both English and vernacular, the newspaper chosen as the object of this study is the most widely read English newspaper in India with a readership of 7.4 million. Close to 74% of its readers belong to the A1/A2 category,1 consisting

Table 1: Content Analysis Framework

predominantly of executives, officers, professionals and large businessmen, 62% are in the age group of 20-44 years and 61% are at least graduates. It also holds the largest share of advertising revenue in the country.2

The period of analysis chosen was 1 September 2008 to 1 September 2009. This was the time when the Right to Education (RTE) Act was being debated and finally passed in Parliament (although it was notified only in April 2010). The chosen newspaper was also involved in a teaching campaign during the same period. The aim of the study was to understand the range of discussions surrounding elementary and secondary education as represented in a national news daily at an historically important juncture in education and in governance with regard to state responsibility for provisioning of public goods and services. The span of one full year also allowed us to take into account the rhythm of the educational institution academic cycle.

The Mumbai city edition was studied. All news pertaining to school education (elementary and secondary) which appeared in the city, national, international and editorial sections of the main daily newspaper was taken. Thematic content analysis was carried out. After an initial review of news types, a coding scheme was evolved, piloted and subsequently finalised. The scheme was then applied to every single news item regarded as reporting and relevant to school education.

Each of these news items was described using 12 fields (Table 1). The first six fields pertained to factual information describing each story – month, types, page, section, word count and dateline. The next six fields involved interpretation and j udgment and attempted to understand the focus and intention of the story. These i ncluded r egional focus, theme, stakeholders/agents/ institutions/socio-economic group focus. In addition to these fields, each story was also captured through key issues and summarised, so that the actual content of the story was always available in some form for cross-checking interpretation as well as reference. Each story was described fully against all the 12 fields on an Excel worksheet for the purposes of our analysis.

3 Findings

Field Name Values Notes

3.1 How Much and When?

1 Month To provide a rough periodisation

2 Type Report, feature, profile, comments, A total of 519 stories, amounting to
3 Page number 4 Section 5 Word count 6 Dateline/ editorial, opinion, interview City, editorial, national, international Could reflect the prominence accorded to a story Business and sports were two additional sections not considered in this study. Indicates the quantitative space accorded to a story 2,28,226 words, relating to school education appeared between 1 September 2008 and 1 September 2009, averaging to about 43.25 stories and approximately 19,000 Generally indicates the place/region from where the words per month; i e, an average of 1.44
location news story is filed. Newspapers have bureau offices stories per day and approximately 634
in several parts of the country and most city bureaus indicate that location in the news story. Certain stories that have a rural focus indicate the words per day (Table 2 and Figure 1, p 71). Compared to the average newspaper’s
closest city or respective district in the dateline. content (approximately 39,500 words per
Certain news stories do not have a dateline, but the location can be ascertained through the content of the story. News items like editorials or opinion pieces do not carry a dateline as they are analytical pieces day in word count and 90 per day story count), this accounts for about only 1.6% of content on a daily basis.
and not reports or features. In any given month, about half of all the
7 Regional focus Urban or rural This was judged using indicators such as dateline as stories appeared in the city section of the
8 Theme well as references in the story newspaper. This was indicative of the ex-
Activities and workshop, admissions, coaching, curriculum, Eight themes were identified mostly based on their frequent occurrence. Although some stories cut tent to which education news is local in its
examinations-stress-results, policy, across themes, by and large, they were categorised character. A huge increase in reporting
reforms in education, teachers based on a predominant thrust. was noted in the months of May, June and
9 Stakeholders/ The nature of agents or institutions that were the July, averaging 62 stories per month. This
Agents/ Institutions subject of the story – teacher, parents, state, private school, etc. accounted for 49.5% of the total word
10 Socio-economic Was the story of special concern to a particular count of all stories (rising to 50.2% if we
groups socio-economic group? include August also). As is well known,
11 Key issues this is the period of the declaration of 10th
12 Brief summary and 12th (junior college) examination
70 october 15, 2011 vol xlvi no 42 Economic & Political Weekly

Table 2: Monthly Appearance of All News Pertaining to School Education

Month Editorial National International City Total Across Sections Total Word Count Ratio of Stories
to Word Count
September 2008 2 10 8 18 38 18,296 0.002
October 2008 1 7 3 8 19 9,913 0.002
November 2008 3 7 4 26 40 20,793 0.002
December 2008 1 8 3 13 25 10,304 0.002
January 2009 1 8 0 14 23 11,996 0.002
February 2009 0 4 1 23 28 10,885 0.003
March 2009 0 10 4 28 42 14,891 0.003
April 2009 0 3 2 9 14 5,299 0.003
May 2009 0 5 1 23 29 12,779 0.002
June 2009 3 7 3 95 108 47,212 0.002
July 2009 5 14 4 68 91 40,586 0.002
August 2009 3 19 1 39 62 25,272 0.002
Total 19 102 34 364 519 2,28,226
Average per month 1.58 8.50 2.83 30.33* 43.25 19,019 Approx 0.002**

* Average excluding May, June, July is 22.33. ** The stable ratio of stories to word count suggests that either would be representative of the quantum of news.

120 International


100 Editorial

80 City




0 9/2008 10/2008 11/2008 12/2008 1/2009 2/2009 3/2009 4/2009 5/2009 6/2009 7/2009 8/2009

r esults, followed by admissions to colleges, was limited national character to the news both pre-university and undergraduate. on education. Again this is indicative of the local charac-Among the 34 international stories, ter of education reporting. news from the United States (US) accounted

for 50% (i e, 17 stories), followed by United

3.2 Regional Distribution Kingdom/Europe (29.41% or 10 stories). Items were categorised both by the date-Other stories came from South Korea, line,3 and by whether they related to ur-N epal, Egypt and Singapore (one story ban or rural areas (Tables 3 and 4, p 72). each) and Indonesia (three stories). About 83.47% of the stories were from the western region; of these 79.61% were from 3.3 News Type Mumbai. This was to be expected, given Of the 519 news stories, 451, i e, close to the choice of edition and the enormous 87%, were reports (Table 5, p 72). Reports reporting of education in the city section. relate events in a more sequential manner, Delhi was the next highest, accounting for adhering to the journalist’s five Ws and 1H 10.72% of stories. News from south, east (Who, What, Where, When, Why and How). and central India was very limited, ac-The structure of a news report presents counting for a mere 2.57%, 1.93% and the various actors in the story but does not 1.28%, respectively. Reporting was almost elaborate on the agency of the actors. This exclusively from the metropolitan cities. restricts the scope for understanding the There were virtually no stories from the positions of the agents in the story. The north-east or Kashmir. Overall, 92.48% question of agency is represented more had an urban focus (Table 4). Thus, there prominently in feature stories, profiles,

Economic & Political Weekly EPW october 15, 2011 vol xlvi no 42


comments, opinions, editorials and interviews. These items, however, formed a very small proportion of the total sample.

3.4 Content

The three sets of findings reported above were drawn from the facts of each story. The next findings relate to the thematic and interpretative dimensions of the content analysis. These were both extensive and intensive. First each story was classified thematically. The eight themes that were identified were the following: Policy, Reform through intervention, Teachers, Curriculum, Exams-Stress-Results, Admissions, Coaching Classes, and Activities and Workshops. Although some stories could have been classified under more than one theme, an effort was made to identify a dominant character and classify it under one single theme only. Table 6 (p 73) presents the distribution of number of news items and word count across themes per month. Figure 2 presents a thematic classification of news stories.

Figure 2: Thematic Classification of News Stories


Coaching Workshops 5% Classes 1% Policy 44%

Admission 10%

Examination Related Stress 19%

Curriculum 3%

Teachers 7% Reform through Intervention 11%

Although it seemed on average that the pattern of word count and numbers of new stories was similar enough for either count to be taken as representative, there seemed to be fairly significant differences between the word counts and itemisation of a story based on theme.

Stories discussing or reporting policy concerns accounted for 44% of all stories and up to 88% of the word count! This means that although other types of themes were represented in the newspaper, they did not receive as much coverage as policy-related discussions. The second highest quantum of reporting was on e xamination-related stress, and accounted for 19% of all stories. Discussion of reforms ing a high court order, to regulate fees in private unaided (i e, English-medium) schools. Around the time of the board examinations, in March, there were also stories pertaining to administrative and regulative control by the state government (Figure 3, p 73). These news stories pertained to governing of exam centres, measures for addressing dilemmas of “out of

Table 3: Regional Spread of News Stories The language policy and efficiency of
Region State Dateline Number of Stories Total Percentage schools were hinted at as responsible
WestNorth Maharashtra Maharashtra Gujarat Rajasthan Uttar Pradesh Mumbai Pune, Nagpur, Kohlapur Ahmedabad, Dhandhuka Jaipur, Alwar New Delhi Belamundi, Bijnore, Bulandshahr Chandigarh 371 8 7 3 44 3 1 389 50 83.47 10.72 for the disadvantage. This disadvantage was being addressed unfairly and in populist ways by the state government through reservation. A second large group of stories pertained to the growth of private English-medium
Haryana Fatehabad 1 schools. In particular, they reported the
Uttarakhand Pauri Garhwal 1 attempt of the state government, follow-
South Tamil Nadu Chennai 6 12 2.57
Tamil Nadu Tiruchi 1
Karnataka Bangalore 4
Kerala Thiruvananthapuram 1
East West Bengal Kolkata 4 9 1.93
Jharkhand Ranchi 2
Bihar Motihari, Nawada 3
Central Madhya Pradesh Bhopal 4 6 1.28
Chhattisgarh Korba, Raipur 2

* This number excludes news stories that pertained to the international page and 19 news stories that appeared on the editorial

page and did not have specific regional references.

through interventions, in other words, non-governmental organisation (NGO)-led interventions was the next highest theme, accounting for 11% of stories. News relating to admissions accounted for 10%, followed by news relating to teachers at 7%; reports of activities and workshops were about 5% while curriculum-related matters accounted for 3%. Coaching classes got 1%.


Some 56% of the news that could be considered to be about policy matters in education was reported in the city pages of the newspaper.4 The national pages carried 27% of policy news, the editorial pages 7% and the international pages 10%. Stories in the city pages dealt more or less equally with both elementary and

Table 4: Distribution of News Items by Urban and Rural Dimensions

Urban Rural Not Total Number
Mentioned of Items
Total numbers 480 20 19 519
Percentage 92.48 3.85 3.66
Table 5: News Type
News Type Number of Items Percentage
Report 451 86.90
Feature 29 5.59
Profile 12 2.31
Editorial 9 1.73
Comments 7 1.35
Interview 6 1.16
Opinion 5 0.96
Total 519

secondary levels of schooling. Two-thirds of the stories on the national pages pertained to elementary school, while the edit pages carried stories pertaining to both levels of school equally. All the international stories pertained to elementary school.

Policy stories in the city pages of the newspaper were largely on the topics of the state’s junior college admission policy (52 stories), followed by stories on private schools (27 stories), quality, curriculum, medium of instruction of schools (14 stories), state control on schools (12 stories) and the Central Board of Secondary E xaminations (CBSE) class 10th exam r eforms (six stories) (Table 7, p 74). Junior college admissions and the curriculum and medium of instruction were related issues. A huge controversy erupted in the city following the state’s announcement that 90% of seats in junior colleges would be reserved for students from the state board schools. While this decision favouring “sons of the soil” found support from both the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), it was opposed hotly by students, parents and the principals of CBSE and Indian Certificate of Secondary Examinations (ICSE) schools in the city, who argued that it violated equality of educational opportunity, howsoever i nterpreted. Questions were also raised regarding why state schools and Marathimedium school students could not meet standards and compete on equal terms.

october 15, 2011

syllabus” questions and curbing cheating, as also e fforts to reform the curriculum in collaboration with various school boards as addressed by the state government.

This entire chunk of policy-related stories can be seen as representing the concerns of the English-medium middle class, also the main readership of this newspaper. The newspaper was discussing issues that affected them directly and giving space for the articulation of their concerns, and their expectations regarding where and what the government should regulate. There were 23 news stories in which the viewpoints of the English educated middle class were represented and 32 news stories where the Maharashtra state government and its vocal support for the Maharashtra Board Secondary School Certificate (SSC) students and Marathi medium of education were represented.

News stories on the national pages highlighted the increasing shift to English medium schools. On the matter of the junior college reservation debate, the centre expressed concern on the implementation of reservation. Only one editorial piece sought to reflect on the implementation of reservation at the junior college level with some depth. This piece called for teacherrelated and examination reforms. Another editorial piece commented on how reservations went against merit.

On the subject of fee regulation, the newspaper seemed to have to represent two sides of their middle class clientele – parents on the one hand and school

vol xlvi no 42


Table 6: Thematic Distribution of News Items and Word Count discussion of the Act, its provisions or the
Policy Reform through Intervention Teachers Curriculum Examrelated Stress Admissions Coaching Activities Classes and Workshops implementation. All the news stories basically provided information on the var-
September 2008 Number 12 14 8 1 0 0 0 3 ious features of the Act.
Word count 5,078 7,276 4,810 336 0 0 0 796 Prominent themes on the edit page in-
October 2008 Number 9 2 3 2 2 0 0 1 cluded the CBSE examination reform, RTE
Word count 4,906 857 1,689 820 1,067 0 0 574 and public-private partnership solutions.
November 2008 Number 11 15 3 0 2 0 0 9 In stories discussing the RTE and public
Word count 5,843 9,655 1,194 0 339 0 0 3,762 private partnership in education, there
December 2008 January 2009 Number Word count Number Word count 12 5,205 10 4,507 1 321 3 1,620 3 912 1 131 1 736 0 0 1 460 5 3,865 0 0 0 0 1 495 2 1,051 62,175 2822 was agreement on the need for universalising education, but there was also a strong emphasis on achieving this through
February 2009 Number 8 0 1 0 13 1 1 4 the efforts of the private sector. The
Word count 3,305 0 1,650 0 5,409 524 232 1,250 suggestion was that the Indian state was
March 2009 Number 11 0 2 3 25 0 1 0 inefficient and it was necessary to make
Word count 3,193 0 486 1,414 9,462 0 336 0 way for the private sector to work in
April 2009 Number 4 2 1 0 7 0 0 0 this area.
Word count 742 1,224 288 0 3,045 0 0 0 Six news stories (two in the city section
May 2009 Number 8 1 1 1 16 1 1 0 and four in the national section) focused
Word count 3,011 528 156 93 7,782 624 585 0 on schemes related to education such as
June 2009 July 2009 Number Word count Number Word count 6328,519 3815,272 2 1,523 11 4,300 0 0 97,494 3 946 2 1,022 2911,768 0 0 11 4,456 29 11,996 0 0 0 0 00 2502 the mid-day meal programme and the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. There were also a certain number of news stories in the city
August 2009 Number 41 4 3 3 0 11 0 0 and national sections on issues related
Word count 17,109 1,417 861 1,189 0 4,696 0 0 to education of Muslims, discrimination
Total Number 227 55 35 16 100 53 6 27 faced by HIV-positive students and girls
Word count 9,96,690 28,721 18,186 6,556 43,197 22,296 2,699 9,881 attending school.
Percentage of Most stories from the international
all stories 43.7 10.6 6.7 3.1 19.3 10.2 1.2 5.2

Percentage of total word count 88.3 2.5 1.6 0.6 3.8 2.0 0.2 0.9

managements on the other. There were five news stories where parents’ concerns were represented and seven news stories where the concerns of the private school managements were represented. Among the news stories that represented the concerns of parents, only one news story reflected the concerns of parents of SSC students. It is interesting to note here the contradiction between the opinions of the high court and the Supreme Court with regard to fee regulation. The four news stories that represented the opinion of the high court were in favour of the private school management, as against the one story where the Supreme Court called for the state government to control the fee hike.

The CBSE reform of class 10th board examinations took place in this period. A total of 17 stories (six in the city page and 11 in the national pages) appeared on the topic.

The RTE Act was passed on 4 August 2009. A total of 18 stories appeared – six

Economic & Political Weekly

october 15, 2011

in the city (4.72%) and 12 in the national pages (9.14%). In the national section, stories relating to the RTE first appeared on 16 December 2008 when the bill was tabled in the Rajya Sabha. They peaked in July and August, 4 August 2009 being the date when it was officially passed. These stories focused primarily on certain important features of the Act such as provisions for disabled children, punishments for demands of capitation fees and problems regarding the enforcing of this Act in private schools. There was no substantial

Figure 3: News Stories by Theme Per Month









9/2008 10/2008 11/2008 12/2008 1/2009 2/2009 Excludes curriculum and coaching classes.

vol xlvi no 42

pages of the newspaper dealt with the problems of accommodating cultural and other forms of diversity in school systems. Stories from the US and Europe dealt with problems of imposing secular values and the rights of minority groups. In addition to the concerns of non-dominant religious and ethnic groups, interestingly, one story also included concerns of dominant Christian groups with regard to secular regulation. Stories also included two from Indonesia, which presented the Islamic state’s attempt to “cure” transvestites through educating them in Islamic values. As many as five stories from the US dealt with President Barack Obama

3/2009 4/2009 5/2009 6/2009 7/2009 8/2009

Policy Reform through Intervention Activities and Workshops Admissions Examination Related Stress Teachers
Table 7: Themes under Policy News
Newspaper Section City National Editorial International
By level of schooling
Elementary 69 46 7 23
Secondary 58 13 8 0
Post-secondary 0 2 1 0
By topic
Junior college debate 52 2 2 0
policy/quality of
schools 14 6 3 2
State control 12 2 0 3
Private schools 27 7 1 0
CBSE secondary
examination reforms 6 11 5 0
Dress code 1 1 0 0
Schemes 2 4 0 0
Post-secondary 0 2 1 0
Vocational 0 0 1 0
Private teaching
campaign 2 0 0 0
RTE 6 12 2 0
Teachers 2 1 0 2
Assessing education 0 4 1 0
Minorities 0 2 0 3
Discrimination 2 3 0 0
Secularism 1 4 0 5
Competition 0 0 0 5
Recession and
education 0 0 0 3
Number of items
(out of 227) 127 61 16 23
Percentage (out of 227) 56 27 7 10

calling for reforms in elementary education. The effect of the global recession on schools and students (three stories) and concerns regarding competition from Asian and Chinese students were also discussed in these stories, and seemed to contribute to their context.

The dominant concern in policy seemed to relate to the attempt of the State to regulate education so as to favour rural, vernacular and lower middle-class groups over the urban and English medium; this was portrayed as populist politics as opposed to fairness and efficiency. All such state actions were contested strongly.

in the months of January, February and number of seats available in the various
March. Six student suicides were reported junior colleges and the fierce competition
in March, after which the state government for select streams and courses in the pre
launched helplines. Stories dealt with the mier junior colleges in the city. These sto
issue of combating stress, and included ries all suggested the anxiety of the mid
the opinions of mental health experts, dle class over access to affordable and
teachers and parents. After the announce good higher education institutes.
ment of the results, the newspapers car
ried stories focusing on the achievement Advertisements
of toppers from various boards. Noting the extent of news in the city pages
Stories under the coaching classes pertaining to the topics of examinations
theme discussed the increasing reliance of and results, we later decided to examine
students on coaching classes to secure the pattern of advertising in the months of
high marks in board exams and the spurt May to August (Table 8). As expected,
of Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) there were a large number of advertise
and medical entrance coaching classes. ments for various coaching classes as well
These news stories reflected on how in as for undergraduate and postgraduate
creasing pressure on students to perform programmes. Career counselling has also
and crack competitive entrance exams emerged as an advertised service.
have led to parents enrolling children in
coaching classes at earlier ages. Stories Teachers and Curriculum
noted that entry to popular coaching cen Thirty-five stories (about 7%) were about
tres is marked by fierce competition and teachers and nearly all of them appeared
some coaching centres have also modified on Teacher’s Day on 5 September. Most
their entry requirements for underprivi of them focused on the lack of respect
leged students by providing scholarships. for schoolteachers and their poor sala
ries. To mark the day, the newspaper ran
Admissions several features on the role of teachers
Along with the 24.6% of the news report and the need to improve teaching as a
ed under the policy theme on junior col profession in the country. The poor edu
lege admissions, and the 10% of stories cational situation in the country was
that directly reported on the various pro linked to poor training facilities and
cedural dimensions of admission processes, the inadequate qualifications of teachers.
admissions-related news was the single The few stories which appeared at other
largest subject reported in the newspaper.5 times of the year portrayed the discontent
These stories appeared in the months of of teachers regarding their pay and
June, July and August. the overall unprofessional treatment by
Stories which had a policy concern were private managements and government.
discussed earlier. Additional stories dis- Some stories reported strikes by teachers
cussed the online system introduced by against the managements of schools and
the state government which had soon colleges. Delayed admissions also fuelled
d eveloped technical problems. This topic anger among junior college teachers who
was again marked by controversy and had to take extra classes on weekends
confusion. Several stories reported the to compensate.
Table 8: Education-Related Advertisements between May-August*
It may be noted that both reservations in May June July August Total
a dmission as well as fee regulation were Private coaching Class 11th and 12th 0 1 1 3 5
rolled back. and counselling Medical 0 2 1 0 3
Medical + engineering 1 1 0 0 2
Exams, Stress and Coaching Classes IIT- Joint entrance exam (JEE) 17 20 6 4 47
Close to 20% of stories (and about 4% of word count) were on the theme of examrelated stress. This was the second most dominant theme, after policy-related stories. These stories appeared just prior to Private Schools University Common Admission Test (CAT) Career counselling International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and International Baccalaureate (IB) Undergraduate colleges Postgraduate colleges 11 2 0 35 29 15 16 2 40 43 32 0 1 21 53 20 4 1 11 41 7822 4 107166
the 10th and 12th class board examinations, * Advertisements on main pages and excluding classifieds.
74 october 15, 2011 vol xlvi no 42 Economic & Political Weekly

RTE coverage was complemented by stories on the need to increase the numbers of teachers once the Act was notified. These stories mentioned how it was i mportant to train teachers and the need for a better recruitment policy. Stories of teachers from government schools in backward areas portrayed their cruelty to children. While one story projected teachers/para-teachers in backward areas as victims of the system, others projected them as oppressors.

In the international pages, stories from the US talked of teacher shortages and possible recruitment from India, and student assessment of teacher performance.

A total of 16 stories dealt with curriculum. Almost all of these had to do with the inclusion or exclusion of regional and communitarian themes in the history textbooks of the state or the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). The Shiv Sena demanded the inclusion of the Samyukta Maharashtra agitation, revision of the portrayal of Shivaji’s teacher and mentor Dadoji, and the inclusion of the name of Hindu Mahasabha leader Madan Mohan Malaviya, all in the state textbooks. Another story compared the teaching of history in a madrasa with an Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)run school in Delhi. International stories on curriculum were of a more general character and included topics such as making learning easier for children, cutting back on homework, reducing school hours, and making age-appropriate sex education mandatory.

Reform through Intervention

The theme of reform through interventions by NGOs accounted for about 11% of stories. Of the 55 stories on this theme, 45 were about the teaching campaign run by this newspaper itself. Stories projected individuals, the corporate partners and the NGOs associated with this effort. They portrayed the efforts of these agencies in a very positive light, and the municipal schools that had been adopted as grateful recipients and beneficiaries. These, along with four stories on the increasing use of technological aids in the classroom, tended to present reform in public education system supported through private i nitiative and innovation. Six stories from

Economic & Political Weekly

october 15, 2011

the international section also dwelt on this theme.

Activities and Workshops

Stories classified under this theme related to events for children held in schools. These schools were all only middle-class English-medium schools, often hosting a “newspaper in education” event sponsored by this newspaper itself.

4 Conclusions

Without doubt, comparing these findings

with the nature of reporting in any repre

sentative edition of the vernacular press

would have been valuable.6 Nevertheless,

in the absence of any such study having

been undertaken earlier, the findings

of this study on a single English national

daily does draw our attention to some

significant findings and trends. It also

highlights the potential of such analysis

in understanding some of the charac

teristics of this socio-historical juncture,

when the developmental agenda of the

country vis-à-vis social sector areas is

being forged.

Education, which is an important deve

lopmental concern in India, is clearly

hardly represented in the news of this

daily. Education itself accounts for a mere

1.6% of news reporting, with a monthly

average of 43 stories across all sections.

In a national newspaper, edit and n ational

news stories largely remain common

across editions. The reach of news items

on these pages could be seen as o perating

beyond the confines of the region, address

ing middle-class English-educated audi

ences on a larger geographic scale. A

monthly average of 10 stories pertaining

to school education appeared on these

pages, as compared to about 30 stories per

month in the city pages. The education

news carried in the paper is predominant

ly of a local character, accounting for close

to 75% of all education reporting.

The content analysis of the themes con

firms this direct relevance to local concerns

of the readership group. Three of the four

most prominent themes that emerged

through content analysis, dealt with the

state’s attempts to bring about regulation

or policy regarding fee and admissions, in

addition to exam stress, admission news.

These three themes can be seen as a direct

vol xlvi no 42

concern of the predominantly middle-class readership. Here, the newspaper directly aimed to engage with the current concerns of its readers, bringing and portraying the point of view of parents, management and government, on the important and immediate concerns of students and their parents.

While it cannot be said that the paper represented only the views of the Englishmedium middle class, it did give their views equal space. The state also rolled back both related regulatory attempts. The middle class comes across in the pages as anxious to succeed in an unreformed education system that produces stress through its emphasis on examinations, and unreliable and arbitrary shifts in policy. The State, on the one hand, resorts to populist policymaking and on the other is unable to effectively regulate p rivate players.

Examining the question of what the newspaper effectively develops or highlights as national concerns, the 10th class examination reform was the most prominent, followed by issues of privately managed educational institutions with regard to state control and language policy (especially the concerns of English-medium schools) and the RTE. Significantly, an issue which may be considered as regional, with regard to the portrayal of regional identity, Marathi pride and the language question, also succeeded in penetrating and finding a place in this English national newspaper, indicating the regional locatedness and investment in regional politics of its middle-class readership. Thus, the regional and local are important in shaping the national educational landscape. Interestingly, developmental issues, especially to do with the quality of teaching in government elementary schools, are raised in the city pages of the paper, mainly through the reporting on the teaching campaign.

It is striking that the RTE Act received very limited coverage – only about 4% of all school education stories. Aspects of the Act which would have a large impact on middle-class schools, such as the 25% reservation for lower socio-economic groups as well as regulation of capitation, admission policy and no-detention policy, were noted. But the rationale and implications of these features, both for the middle classes, but also for the larger population, were not highlighted or debated.

Clearly, both the newspaper and the middle-class constituency that it represents, seemed to approach this Act as largely having implications for the poor, and children who are currently out of school or do not complete elementary school. This is neglect of an important educational achievement of the period, especially when seen in contrast with the approach to reform in the public education system that the newspaper promoted – corporate and middle class voluntarism and use of technology. The fact that this campaign was wound up received virtually no coverage. It lays bare the fact that such efforts are of no real significance. Now that RTE has been notified and individual states are formulating regulatory rules based on the Act, a middle-class protest has begun to take shape which has begun to receive coverage. Considering that the clauses of contention have been in the public domain for several years, the fact that they were not raised earlier also seems to suggest the middle-class perception that the State should and would keep out of regulating privately organised education. We can expect that the private versus public/state and the English versus vernacular divides will grow in their significance in structuring and circumscribing the issues that eventually make “news”, both locally and nationally.


1 These categories are explained at the following site, accessed 28 September 2011: http://www.

2 This data is from the National Readership Survey (NRS) 2006, published by the National Readership Studies Council (NRSC), which is constituted by the Advertising Agencies Association of India, and the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) of the Indian Newspaper Society. According to a 2006 press release by the NRSC: “The NRS is the largest survey of its kind in the world, with a sample size of 2,84,373 house-to-house interviews to measure the media exposure and consumer product penetration in both urban and rural India – and…the estimated readership of publications. The study covers 535 publications of which 230 are dailies and 305 are magazines.” See NRSC (2006): “NRS 2006 – Key findings”, press release, 29 August. The study and cited data can be a ccessed at: timm/times.jsp

3 News items from the editorial section (some 19 stories) were not categorised by region or by u rban or rural dimensions as stories in this section do not cater to a specific region.

4 News items which discussed policy aspects of the admissions process, such as the 90% reservation for SSC students in junior colleges in the city were consciously categorised under the policy theme due to the political nature of the discussion in these news stories. These news items were different in content from those that discussed the procedural aspects of admissions and appeared with great frequency in the months between June and August. The latter type were categorised under a separate “admissions” theme.

5 See fn 4.

6 A recent study by Vipul Mudgal (2011) looks at six newspapers – three English and three Hindi. Like this study, it also focuses only on metro editions. The sampling frame was very informative for collecting adequate samples from a large population. While this technique is useful for understanding broad patterns, for tracking story development at the micro-level, there may be chances of losing out on a certain sample of news stories. Gaps in sample collection may be important in understanding emerging discussions on key events/occurrences.


Jeffrey, Robin (1997a): “Advertising and Indian-Language Newspapers: How Capitalism Supports (Certain) Cultures and (Some) States, 1947-96”, Pacific Affairs, 70(1): 57-84.

– (1997b): “Marathi: Big Newspapers Are Elephants”, Economic & Political Weekly, 32(8): 384-88.

Mudgal, Vipul (2011): “Rural Coverage in the Hindi and English Dailies”, Economic & Political Weekly, 46(35): 92-97.

Naregal, Veena (1999): “Colonial Bilingualism and H ierarchies of Language and Power: Making of a Vernacular Sphere in Western India”, Economic & Political Weekly, 34(49): 3446-56.

Vincent, Subramaniam and Ashwin Mahesh (2005): “Can Media Catalyse India’s Development”, editorial, India Together, 1 March. Accessed 30 September 2011: mar/edt-mediadev.htm

March 26, 2011
Resurrection and Normalisation of Empire – Rohit Chopra
Taming the Imperial Impulse: Realising a Pragmatic Moral Vision – Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im
Adam’s Mirror: The Frontier in the Imperial Imagination – Manan Ahmed
Indian Empire (and the Case of Kashmir) – Suvir Kaul
Imperial Democracies, Militarised Zones, Feminist Engagements – Chandra Talpade Mohanty
Rethinking News Agencies, National Development and Information Imperialism – Oliver Boyd-Barrett
Digital Imperialism through Online Social/Financial Networks – Radhika Gajjala, Anca Birzescu
Pandemic, Empire and the Permanent State of Exception – Cindy Patton
For copies write to:
Circulation Manager,
Economic and Political Weekly,
320-321, A to Z Industrial Estate, Ganpatrao Kadam Marg, Lower Parel,
Mumbai 400 013.

october 15, 2011 vol xlvi no 42

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