Education in Kerala is a success story which not just other states of India, but many nations wish to mirror. Located in the southern tip of India, Kerala declared total literacy in one town in 1989, and subsequently, total literacy in a whole state by 1990.
"Literacy is a prerequisite for social development," says P.K. Ravindran, a former president of the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad, a group that gave a push to the state's literacy movement in the 1980s. "Without literacy you cannot go forward."
Let's look at some of the reasons as to how Kerala achieved this incredible feat. Firstly, like any other state in India during the 19th century, socio-economic segregation was prevalent in Kerala too. The temples were accessible only to the upper castes. The lower casts were seen unworthy of education and power thus supremacy became a powerful tool of the upper-castes. However, the change in the education scenario came about as a part of a social revolution that moved towards equals treatment of the lower castes. This social reform movement was a result of the actions of visionaries like Sree Narayana Guru, Chattambi Swamikal ( who fought towards opening of temples towards the lower castes ). They realised that social quality in its true sense could only be achieved if education was made open to all castes. This is turn lead to NSS( Nair Service Society) Schools and Sree Narayana schools being constituted and they hold a strong presence in the current education scenario of Kerala.
Another factor which greatly influenced Kerala, was the rise in the status of woman in the province from the pre-colonial era onwards. Kerala had a matriarchal society right from its olden days. This enabled women to stand alongside the male members of their family and receive an education. Moreover, modern Kerala is still often upheld as India’s best state for women. It has the country’s highest female literacy rate at 92%, with only four percentage points’ difference between male and female rates. In the 1990's, political leaders wooed the young voters with welfare schemes that preached the betterment of women. 'Kudumbashree', a programme founded in 1998 that works with half of the state’s households, organises women into savings clubs and offers grants to entrepreneurs. This has made women understand their financial status and how to manage themselves better.
Lastly, modern policies adopted by the governments also played a key role in the aggravation of the already accelerating literacy rate. Even when times are tough, education is the last item the Kerala government will cut. "Traditionally, we've always been funding education. The social demand is there. If we make budget cuts now, there'll be agitation from the people," says A. Ajith Kumar, director of public instruction in Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala. The aided-school policy adopted by the EMS Govt paved way for private entrepreneurs to start up schools with govt. funding. It also normalized remuneration for the school staff including teachers Even in the low-income and labor-based groups of fisherman and hill tribes where the drop-out is low, the government has set up special schools to bridge the gap. Additionally, the government of Kerala has also focused on adult education, spending $7.4 million to open 3,500 adult continuing education centers between 1998 and 2003.
Thus, the progress of a certain state in terms of literacy, which in turn leads to fostering its economy and increasing the standard of living, is a combined effort of its pioneers, social reformers, ancient rulers and elected governments that work towards a revolution. Each of these groups act as a thread that weaves together the advancement of the state. Kerala, stands high as the mountains of the north as a proven example of being socially and scholarly advanced, even though it is a land that actually is covered in paddy fields.