There is a growing realisation that good-quality education can only be assured if both the academic and the social and emotional developmental needs of learners are met within schools. This study investigates the relationship, at primary school level, between a child's beliefs about their ability to perform academic tasks i.e. 'academic self-concept' and achievement in mathematics, as well as between academic self-concept and aspects of the observed classroom environment. Using Young Lives quantitative as well as qualitative data from Andhra Pradesh, India, the results show a significant and positive correlation between the academic self-concept and the progress in mathematics of students in primary schools. We find from the analysis of the learning environment that more time spent by teachers on discussion and interaction with the whole class is significantly associated with better academic self-concept in students. Disciplinary action taken by the teacher and the temporary absence of the teacher are seen to have a negative significant association with students' academic self-concept. On the other hand the preparation and use of teaching and learning material (TLM) by the teacher improves academic self-concept significantly. These results have important implications for educationists, school leaders, teachers, parents and policymakers, since they all need to work together to create learning environments that foster the self-concept of children and provide fertile ground to help it develop.