Education in Kerala Trail & Travails

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By Education Today

Posted on April 6, 2022


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Education in Kerala Trail & Travails

During the 12th  century traditional education in Kerala was individualistic. It was confined to the teacher’s home or small academies. The main means for education during medieval period were shalas, ezhuthupalli, kalari, gurukulam, maktab, madrassa etc. The intension of such a system was to create togetherness , ensure well-being of the students including their physical fitness. As it progressed into the Sangam age by 1500 AD, Kerala had one of its its golden era in terms of education were everyone got the chance to get educated without any difference of cast, sex etc. One of the positive aspects of this system was that the teaching was not salary oriented. The teacher used to get the reward in form of product cultivated, during harvest seasons. The aim of education was not to attain a job or for any other material achievements. The education was more of  a tool to enhance the moral and ethical moorings of an individual. Any one who wish to have higher education could do it from well known institutions like Nalanda and Takshashila.

After the Sangam age discrimination in terms of cast or chathurvarnyam and gender become the hurdles of accessibility of education. The people belonging to the lower levels of society and female members of all levels were the pride of the right of the education

Kerala had been a notable centre of education from the Vedic Period. Centres for vedic learning in temple was organized in various parts of South Kerala. These were called ‘ shalas’ and here teachings were disseminated in Grammar, Philosophy, Medicine and Law. Admission to these shrines of knowledge were but reserved exclusively to Brahmins.

The Pallikkoodams started by Christian Missionaries paved the way for an Educational Revolution in Kerala by making education accessible to all, irrespective of caste or religion. Christian Missionaries introduced Modern Education to empower the common man. During the dawn of 19th century, three groups of missionaries reached Kerala. Their propagation of Christian faith spread among the mixed Tamil- Malayalam dialect speaking populace of South Travancore as well as Cochin and Malabar. Missionary teachings on Christian civility, morals, culture & faith started to gain following. In 1806, the first ever modernised schooling systems in Kerala was setup in Travancore.

Communities such as Ezhavas, Nairs and Harijans were guided by great visionaries and monastic orders (Ashrams) – Sree Narayana Guru, Sree Chattambi Swamigal & Ayyankali – who exhorted them to educate themselves by starting their own schools. That resulted in numerous Sree Narayana schools and Nair Service Society schools. The teachings of these saints have also empowered the poor and backward classes to organize themselves and bargain for their rights. Muslim Educational Society (MES) also made significant contributions to Education. The prevalence of education was not only restricted to males but to women too, in pre-Colonial Kerala.Muslims established Maktabs and Madrassahs . These institutions were attached to Mosques. Maktab is aimed to give primary education, enable pupils to read Holy Quran and to understand religious prayers. Education in Madrassahs was under two categories religious and secular. Religious education consists of the study of the Holy Quran, commentaries on Holy Quran, Traditions of the prophet, Islamic laws,etc.. Secular education consisted of Arabic Grammar , prose, literature, logic, philosophy, law , astrology, arithmetic, medicine, agriculture, etc.

Education in Kerala pre Independence

The educational condition in India as a whole was at a low in the beginning of 19th century. Sir Charles Wood who was the secretary of Kerala state during 1854 sent instructions to British East India Company suggesting that education in English and other languages should be encouraged and improved in India. This education dispatch implied that a coordinated system of education is clearly stated and that it should never been neglected. This move was smart and a big leap in the history of education in India. But the provisions of the education dispatch of 1854 was not strictly  followed as the studies regarding the developments of education in British India and Kerala done later on points out. The reason for the same was that Government interest was the least in elementary education and that the importance was given to secondary and higher education. Also during the time, provisions of giving any grant in aid for education was not in practice. During the same time the Christian missionaries were training to educate the mass by establishing education institutions especially in south Kerala. They were distressed with this attitude of the Government and formed a council in England.

The General Council of Education in India

In 1882 Lord Ripon who was the Viceroy of India appointed William Hunter as Chairman of his first Indian Education Commission. The commission submitted the report in 1883. Notable part of the report was that it freed the government from the responsibility of mass education and suggested a gradual transfer of higher education institutions to efficient private bodies. The primary education remained the responsibility of local authorities. The report also suggested encouragement of indigenous educational institutions which were declining by that time. During colonial period, Kerala was made up of two princely states – Travancore and Cochin – Malabar which remained under the direct administration of British.

Educational Development in Kerala

The princes who ruled the state time to time put their all efforts to develop educational status of their subjects. The disorganised shalas, ezhuthuppalli etc. were developed into  well established  and well devised scheme of primary, secondary and collegiate education. There was perhaps no other state in India which spend a major part of its revenue for education. Rulers like Rani Gouri Lakshmi Bhai (1810-1815), Gouri Parvathi Bhai ( 1815-1829), Swathi Thirunal (1829-1847), Uthram Thirunal Marthanda Varma ( 1847- 1860), Ayilym Thirunal Ramavarma (1860-1880), Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma (1931-1949) were some among the remarkable princes who had a very positive attitude towards educational development.

In 1956 the Kerala state was formed with all the three – Travancore , Cochin and Malabar merged into one. Even though the nation became free in 1947, significant changes in all faces of social life started after the formation of Kerala state. In 1957 the Communist Government brought the education bill which stressed the point of free and compulsory education for all children in the state. The much controversial educational bill presented by the then Education Minister Prof. Joseph Mundassery  put four steps for universalising education. The government decided to print text books in the government run press itself and distribute them to school at a reasonable price.  This made education affordable to many socially and economically backward sections. With this view the Universities was removed the direct control of government and was reorganized as independent autonomous institutions. Kerala university bill was introduced in 1957 itself. The subsequent Government put efforts to establish a university centre in the Malabar region and on 23rd January 1968 Calicut University was established. The bill which the Government of 1972 amended was also a crucial one since it brought unification of the fee. The Government also got involved  in the appointment of teachers in private institutions, reservation for admission for belongs to SC, ST, OBC etc. Primary education was made free and compulsory in the state by the government. About 96% of schools in Kerala are founded by the state. Government funds are distributed among two types of schools. The first is, schools established and  run by government, which comes to 36% only. The second is, aided schools, where they are owned and managed by private agencies. This forms majority portion. The Christian missionaries who laid foundations for educating the marginalised group of society such as SC, ST and female student later formed communal organizations which started educational institutions. The Sreenarayana Dharma Paripalana Sangam (SNDP), the Nair Service Society (NSS) are also the important ones among such organizations. Many schools in primary and secondary level were opened by such organisations. Thus the main obstacle in universalising basic education was removed. The two main sources of large scale data on school attendance was National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 1992-93, its National Sample Survey 1993-94 reveal that 95% of the children in the age group 5-15 go to school regularly in Kerala. There is no difference in the case of girls as the cases in many other states in India. Even in tribal area the children including girls are attending schools without fee. Kerala State Literacy Mission which took a commendable part in achieving the full literacy status to the state is still in energetic path. Besides Kerala Mahila Samakya Samithi initiated during 1987-89 to translate the goals of the national policy on education and empowerment of women in rural areas contributes much towards the development of women education.

In 1994 The State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) was established. SCERT Kerala is an autonomous body entrusted with planning, implementation and evaluation of all academic programmes from pre school to higher secondary levels. It concerned with the academic aspects of school education including formulation of curriculum, preparation of textbooks, teachers’ handbooks and teacher training.

In 1996 the Government established a string of school complexes with one high school and a set of primary and secondary schools in a region in many places. This was successful in all the areas where it was implemented because of the help, cooperation and enthusiasm shown by the pubic in that area. Another notable mile stone in the educational history of Kerala was the implementation of DPEP ( District Primary Education Programme) during 1996-97. It was commissioned in India with the financial help of the World Bank. The program consisted of a  massive change in the curriculum and also attempted major changes in pedagogy. The teaching was more child oriented and comprehensive training programmes for teachers on the same lines were decided. The curriculum was revised along with evaluation methods in order to improve the teaching skills required to handle multi level learning environment. The “Kinginikoottam program” was introduced in 1998. It brought together the selection of differently performing students from class 1 to 4 and teachers and dealt with the problems of differently abled children and addressed the concerns of a special problems of disadvantages children of the scheduled tribe had.

The SSA (Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan) Programme, implemented, by the Central Government as per the 86th amendment is another latest commendable move for the upliftment of primary and secondary level education. It is an effort universalise elementary education thru community ownership with the basic intension of these programmes to ensure quality basic education all over the country and growth of children.

The main features of the programme are

• Free and compulsory education to all children between age group 6-14

• Starting education institutions wherever it is not available and improvement of existing schools in all aspects.

• Commencement of alternative schools and “back to school” for dropouts.

• Bridging all gender and social disparities in gaining elementary education.

• To educate all children in minority communities.

• To ensure that all children are enrolled in schools.

• Prime consideration for education of girl children.

The Government of Kerala whole heartedly materialised the SSA programme in the state. The RTE act right to education also shows the importance given by the authorities to the development of basic education system.

KITE (Kerala Infrastructure and Technology for Education)  is a Government of Kerala set up to foster, promote and implement modernisation of educational institutions in the state of Kerala, owned by the state or run under the aid of Government. It was developed to support ICT enabled education for schools in Kerala. The IT@School project was established in 2001 and IT campaigns were conducted statewide.  The spectrum of KITE include information and communication technology, capacity building, satellite based education, support and maintenance mechanism e-governance or other related activities.

Another milestone of Kerala general education is General Education Protection Mission (Pothu Vidhyabhyasa Samrakshana Yajnam). It was implimented in 2017.It is one among the four schemes of ‘Nava Kerala Mission’ which aims at sustainable and comprehensive development of the State. The mission co-ordinates the project aiming at strengthening the General Education Sector in the State. In order to ensure academic progress, mission undertake activities for improving the infrastructural facilities of schools, introducing ICT enabled learning, preparing teachers and providing guidelines for academic planning. An expert committee is appointed at the state level to provide leadership for the activities of the mission. Activities are being co-ordinated at the district level by the district co-ordinators.

Higher Education in Kerala

According to general presumption excess importance was given to the primary and secondary level education concerns which also led to the neglect of higher education. The degree of higher education levels in India as always been less in Kerala than in national average. As expected from the state were literacy is total, primary education and secondary education universal, a good higher education level was not so developed. Taking and an account of the inter dependence of one layer of education with the other higher education, it became critically important in developing and sustaining a good quality primary and secondary education. Moreover higher education plays an important role in the economic development role of state or country. It is the higher education that may be the single most important factor that makes difference between the developed countries and developing countries.The enrolment ratio higher education in Kerala stands at a very low level. It is observed by the various education commissions that only10% of those who enter primary education enrol in the primary degree courses be it both general or professional. While enumerating the second degree level which is the post-graduation, it was the expenditure involved in attaining higher education that is the main deterrent which forbids many to access it.  The grant aid  given by the government to colleges remains very low. Naturally the revenue for the running and the maintenance of institutions relate with a fee collected from the students. This subsequently results in the hegemony of self financing institutions in the field of higher education. The students from economically forward families are the only ones getting benefited by this. Add to this is the fact that a number of students are choosing neighbouring states for higher professional education. The reasons usually told for the same are lack of suitable institutions, standard of education and or a fear about the political interference and violence. The colleges in Kerala are registered to the four affiliating universities – Kerala University, consisting of colleges of Thiruvanandapuram, Kollam and Alappuzha, Calicut University , with the largest territorial coverage and consisting of colleges at Thrissur,Palakkad,  Malappuram, Kozhikode and Wayanad., Kannur University consisting of colleges at Kannur and Kasaragod and MG University with its colleges at Pathanamthtta, Kottayam, Edukki, and Ernakulam. Besides these Sreesankaracharya University of Sanskrit, Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) and Kerala Agricultural University are also functioning in the state for specialised courses in specified areas. Recently in 2012  Malayalam University also started functioning full filling the dreams of many. It is seemed that the number of colleges in public funded sectors, Government or aided as virtually stuck . Also a significant declined is observed in pure science branches these days. Since the mid 1990’s, bright and talented children prefer Engineering , Medical or other professional courses. When social science subjects are totally not preferred much, Commerce , Business Administration, Computer Science, etc. are largely preferred. Even state run IHRD, CADS institutions are providing only two bachelor courses in Electronics and in Computer Science. Moving side by side with a Christian institutions who created in important mile stones in the history of Kerala education, other religious organizations  also established many schools and colleges. SNDP and NSS of Hindu religion and MES (Muslim Educational Society) of muslim are major among them. With a view of restructuring higher education on informational basis Kerala state higher education council was formed in march in march 2007. in this council importances given the following aspects.

• Finding out the potentiality and aptitude of  the studen

• Appointment of right teachers with authoritative knowledge is concerned subjects.

• Preparation of an updated syllabus.

• Creation of skilled and employable human resource.
Thru this article , we had attempted to have a glimpse of history of education in Kerala starting from the 16th century to date. Various plans are still awaited for the reformations in education at different levels. The progress level of primary and secondary education the state is enviable. Higher level education needs more attention and the union government also takes a favourable attitude. The central government has sanctioned one IIT to Kerala which hopefully will be established shortly. Vibrant developed personalities with commitments to the society is a real asset for any region or state. The very aim of education is not anything lesser than this. With such personalities multifaceted developments of this state can be ensured.

Compiled by Swetha Sukumar