First state to achieve 100% primary education, but is there more to Kerala’s feat?https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/kerala-primary-education-literacy-rate/

First state to achieve 100% primary education, but is there more to Kerala’s feat?

With elections round the corner, the Congress government seems to have rushed to get the status of the first state to achieve complete primary education.

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The government’s claim that Kerala has achieved complete primary education – a year into launching the special drive – raises many doubts.

Vice President Hamid Ansari will, on Wednesday, declare Kerala as the first Indian state to achieve total primary education.

This is reckoned as another achievement for the state which had earlier, in 1991, been declared as the first complete literate state, although the literacy drive in Kerala lost its steam in the later years pegging the literacy rate at 93.9 per cent, as per census 2011.

To achieve total primary education in the state, Kerala State Literacy Mission, which is the nodal agency for conducting continuing education programmes, had launched a special scheme “Athulyam” in October, 2014.

As per the scheme, the literacy mission had identified people who had not completed their primary education. They have been given five-month training, enabling them to attend the fourth equivalency examination.

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Accordingly, the literacy mission enrolled two lakh people into Athulyam, and gave them a fourth equivalency programme, in a year.

However, the government’s claim that Kerala has achieved complete primary education – a year into launching the special drive – raises many doubts.

It was in Nilambur panchayat in Malappuram that Athulyam was first launched in 2006. The panchayat identified 2000-odd men and women who had abandoned their primary classes. It took two years for the literacy mission to ensure that all candidates in that panchayat attained fourth grade equivalency.

With a mission to give fourth-grade equivalency classes to two lakh candidates, the project was rolled out across the state only a year back. The classes, exam, and evaluation were conducted by the Kerala State Literacy Mission. No external agency was assigned to look into or verify whether all candidates of the Athulyam project had passed the examination.

When the pilot project was launched in Nilambur panchayat, such an exercise by an external expert agency was done.

Now, with elections round the corner, the Congress government seems to have rushed to get the status of the first state to achieve complete primary education.

In that haste, the state would have missed to notice the present trend of drop out of Dalits and tribal children from primary classes. Many fear such a declaration would only do a disservice to the weaker sections who failed to come within the ambit of the project, particularly when the census 2011 had identified 19 lakh illiterate people in the state.