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Living in the present while imagining the future: How school and its promises shape conceptions of childhood for indigenous tribal students in India

This article builds on Allison James and Alan Prout’s call to focus more on theorizing the social construction of time in childhood and explores how school, as an organization and an experience, influences students’ conceptions of childhood and experiences of being a child. Extending the conception of time of childhood to include their future projections, we assert that aspiring to become an adult, while seeming to diminish the experience of childhood, actually provides motivation and hope to children. We also posit that school’s emphasis on “preparation to become” influences children’s experience in school and “imagined futures” as adults. The article is based on interviews with Indian tribal students between the ages of 9 and 15 who attended school at a residential school serving 25,000 students and at government day schools in Odisha, India.