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Education in Kerala

What will be the effects of the Kerala Education Bill which has been passed despite opposition both within and outside the State legislature? Will it lead to more efficient running of schools and speedier spread of education in the State? Direct answers to these questions are not contained in the Bill’s provisions several of which have been substantially modified. Teachers, perhaps, may have a better deal and it may no longer be possible for private agencies to mismanage schools. But legal sanctions are not nearly enough. The system itself must be revitalized and those engaged in the administration of education must develop a new spirit to be able to give a new meaning to what is taught in schools. It is, therefore, not the Bill that is of major importance but the way its provisions are implemented. The opposition’s fears and misgivings about the Bill’s aims have to a large extent been allayed by the Government’s assurance that the advisory boards at the State and district levels are not intended to enable communists to control education. If these bodies consist mainly of educationalists connected with schools and are not chosen because of their political affiliations, they should be able to act as a healthy link between educational institutions and the Government. Since at the same time they are expected to help in the conduct of the mid-day meal scheme and the organization of conferences and exhibitions, they can bring the people and the schools into closer contact. It would have been more reassuring had the Government decided to constitute the State advisory board on an all-party basis with a number of legislators on it. Such aboard could have been entrusted with the task of ensuring that the Bill resulted in no hardship to anyone and that the powers taken under it by the Government were in no way abused or misused. The State Government has been careful enough to see that its intentions are not suspected. It can now disarm all opposition to the measure by making provision for supervision of its implementation by an all-party board.

Another controversial issue relates to the preparation of teacher’s lists. Even after the passage of the Bill it is not very clear what advantage will be gained by keeping lists of qualified teachers. If qualifications for different grades of teachers are laid down school managements can themselves be expected to select only those who are eligible for appointment as teachers. The drawing up of lists by the Public Service Commission can be of help in a situation where rules are flouted by managements and qualifications are ignored. Does the provision imply that such conditions prevail in the State’s School? Only if they do can the proposed system benefit education.

A welcome provision in the Bill is the one enjoining on the Government to make education compulsory for children between the ages of six and 14 within ten years. Kerala is already Ahead of other States where education is concerned. If this scheme is enforced the state will be able to claim a distinct position in the country. It may, however, be hoped that those who come out of schools at the age of 14 do not swell the ranks semi-educated unemployed. It is to avoid such a development that the reorganization of education at all stages has been under taken. Kerala will have to have large numbers of multi-purpose secondary schools to absorb at least a percentage of those turned out of junior schools at the age of 14. The State Government has already introduced a measure which would enable it tot change Kerala University into a federal and teaching university. The reform is in line with progressive ideas. But to be really effective it must be co-ordinated with the system of education at all stages.

(The Hindustan Times-5th September, 1957)