India, with a system of social stratification on the basis of caste, shows interesting dynamics regarding the role of education in society. On the one hand access to education remains connected to social status. Despite a rhetoric of "Education for All" there is evidence of systematic exclusion from education. This can lead to a reproduction of hierarchical social structures. However, on the other hand there are signs of a transformation of the values associated with education. This transformation challenges the traditional semantics of pure and impure as the central dichotomy of the caste system and might even marginalize them. As the article shows, certified education is gaining higher value than membership in a specific caste group. This transformational and reproductional potential of education is discussed on the basis of two empirical studies. The first study takes a closer look at the situation of Dalit children in a rural context; the second analyses the notions of education of an urban middle-class sample. Overall the article points to the importance of a cultural perspective in education research.