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The educational scenario in Kerala is far advanced than other states of India. The Kerala model of development owes it attributed success to the achievements in the area of education and health. Most of the changes and development in the field of education has occurred since independence. The State had pursued a liberal higher education policy from 1956 through mid eighties in terms of quantitative expansion and access to higher education. Today, it boasts other states in terms of high literacy rate of 90.86% as against 65.38% in the national level.

Schools and colleges in Kerala are run either by the government, private trusts and individuals. The schools in Kerala are affiliated to Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE), the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Kerala State Education Board. The Education Department of the state gives special attention to the primary education. The primary schools in Kerala include private aided, private unaided and government schools. Though both English and Malayalam are offered as medium of instructions by the state run schools, most of the private schools resort to English as their language of teaching. After completing the secondary education that involves 10 years of schooling, students usually enroll in higher secondary education in any one of the three disciplines - Science, Commerce and Humanities. Apart from this there are teacher training institutes, special schools for the differently abled persons and an Anglo Indian High School.

The excellent education system of Kerala attracts students from other nations. The progress in the number of educational institutions in the state is rapid. Presently (2006-07), there are 12644 schools constituting 2790 high schools, 3037 upper primary schools and 6817 lower primary schools respectively. While analyzing the distribution of schools it may be noted that the number of lower primary schools had decreased from 6861 (1980) to 6817 (2006-07). This is due to change in the demographic pattern and the fall in the fertility rate of the state. The private unaided schools are more prevalent in high schools, where they constitute 13.12% of the total high schools in the state. However, there is a sharp increase in the private aided schools in Kerala in all the 3 sections. Its distribution, in the year 2006-2007 was 1428 private aided high schools, 1870 private aided upper primary schools and 3992 private aided lower primary schools.

The enrolment of students showed a sharp decline over the years due to the steep fall in the rate of growth of population since late 1970s. A decline of 1.97% has been recorded in the enrolments of students in 2007-08 as compared to 2006-07. Enrolment of students in lower primary, upper primary and high schools sections are 31.14%, 31.76% and 31.10% respectively. The drop out ratio is very low in Kerala and it recorded 0.59% a lower primary level, 0.52% at upper primary level and 1.29% at high school level. Wayanad district has the highest deep out ratio (1065%) and Kasargode topped in the upper primary and high schools in this aspect.

Girls outnumber boys in all classes comprising 49.23% of the total students enrolment in schools. Besides, out of the 46998 students studying in vocational higher secondary schools, 51.86% are girls and at the graduate and postgraduate level too girls took the prime position with 67% and 78.2% (2006-2007) respectively. The picture showed that in the university education too girls stood first, which means that the government had laid emphasis on enrolling and retention of girls in normal schooling and non-formal education. Moreover, the government of Kerala is committed to bring about basic change in the status of women through education.

In the case of teachers, there are 1,76,126 teachers including TTI teachers. Out of this 31.3% are in government section, 60.72% in private aided sector and 7.98% in unaided schools. In these three sections women dominate men by 7.4% (2006-07). With regard to polytechnics, there are 43 nos. in the government sector and 6 as private aided polytechnics in the state (2007-2008). The annual intake of students in Government Polytechnics and Private Aided Polytechnics are 8160 and 1500 respectively. Here, girls constitute only a little more than 10% which is same as technical high schools.

The Technical Education system in the State includes courses in Engineering Technology, Management, and Architecture etc. at diploma, degree, postgraduate and research levels. Engineering colleges, Technical High Schools, College of Fine Arts, Polytechnic college, Government Commercial Institute, Government of Tailoring and garment making centre and industrial schools come under the purview of Technical Education System of the state. National Institute of Technology, Kozhikode having the Deemed University status offers graduate and post graduate courses. Cochin University of science and Technology (CUSAT) is short listed by MHRD, Government of India for up gradation to the status of IIEST. Self-financing institutions are also functioning in Technical Education sector in the state.

Currently, there are 7 Universities in Kerala excluding two deemed universities, which constituted 2.7 per cent of 297 universities in the country. In 2002, there were 1.61 lakh students in Arts and Science Colleges, excluding those in unaided colleges. Of which, 4 Universities namely Kerala, Mahatma Gandhi, Calicut and Kannur Universities are offering various courses and are general in nature. Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT), Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit and Kerala Agriculture University are the other 3 Universities functioning in the state. Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit and Kannur University are the recently formed Universities, established in 1993 and 1995 respectively. Universities in Kerala have now shifted the emphasis from conventional courses to professional and technical job oriented courses while giving sanction to new courses.

Over all, the role of government in college education was limited as the number of colleges under government is only 38 out 224. Whereas, the dominance of the private sector has gone up with 66 per cent of the colleges being run by private management, and by and large they are aided colleges. Besides, there has been a significant growth in self-financing or private unaided colleges with the number increasing to 38, which equals the number of government colleges in the state. The reasons for the spread of unaided courses in aided colleges are many. The most important factor is the policy of the State Government. The de-linking of pre-degree courses from the colleges from 1997 onwards created large idle infrastructure in the private-aided colleges. Moreover, the off-campus programme of universities offered the best opportunity for private college managements to exploit the existing assets of the aided colleges to further their commercial interests. As such Kerala's higher education system has not expanded as much as one expects in a State where elementary education is nearly universal.


Kerala with its rich culture of respecting womanhood had given due value to her rights and needs boosting her self esteem. In spite of its varied traditions, all have offered more scope and place for women than they experienced elsewhere in India.

While reviewing the history of Kerala, we could see her transformation into the forefront of the society as gradual but a cautious one. Yet, she was not aloof from the errands of rearing children and household chores. Still, she seems pleasing and gratifying the needs of the family and maintains an inimitable status of her own apart from the counterparts and women of other states. We pride ourselves on being the state with the highest literacy rate among women, a state where female to male ratio is higher, suggesting that there are fewer numbers of selective abortion or female infanticide. The Kerala evidence suggests that literate men have literate sons, but literate women have literate families.

As per the norms of National Literacy Mission, a literacy rate above 90 % shall be treated as complete literacy. On this basis, Kerala (90.86%) was declared a, 'Fully Literate State', on April 18th, 1991. 87.86 per cent of women in the state are literate which is extremely higher (33.7) than the national literacy rate of women. The break-up of male and female literacy rates are 94.2 and 87.86 per cent respectively. It seems that more than three-fourth percent of the total population are literate and there exists not much discrepancy between male and female population. The female literacy rate was growing at 1.69 per cent (1991-2001) as against the male literacy growth rate of 0.58 per cent in the state of Kerala. Some states are still lagging behind the level attained by Kerala in 1951.

Male - female gap in literacy rate in Kerala has been declining at higher rate. For instance, in 1951, male-female literacy gap was 21.9 per cent and in 2001 it is only 6.3 per cent . At all India level the gap is 21.7 per cent in 2001.

Female Literacy Rate - Kerala, India (1951-2001)
Year Kerala -Female Literacy (%) Male- Female gap (%) India -Female Literacy (%) Male- Female gap (%)
1951 36.43 21.92 7.93 17.02
1961 45.56 19.33 12.95 21.49
1971 62.53 14.6 18.69 20.77
1981 65.73 9.53 29.76 26.62
1991 86.17 7.45 39.29 24.84
2001 87.86 6.34 54.16 21.69

Source: Census of India

District-wise data showed that 'Kottayam' district ranks first both in male and female literacy rates and it is the first town in India to have achieved 100% literacy (a remarkable feat achieved as early as in 1989). The lowest literacy rate was found in Palakkad district in both sexes. It is to be noted that the female literacy rate in the district is lesser than male by 10 per cent. It is not a matter of great concern as the district lags behind in most aspects of development, compared to the State average.

With regard to scheduled castes population the distribution was 88.1% (males) and 77.6% (females) and that of scheduled tribes it was 70.8 percent and 58.1 per cent only.

Literacy Rate of different districts of Kerala
Districts Literacy (%)
Male Female
Kasaragod 90.84 79.8
Kannur 96.38 89.57
Wayanad 90.28 80.80
Kozhikode 96.30 88.86
Malappuram 91.46 85.96
Palakkad 89.73 79.31
Thrissur 95.47 89.94
Ernakulam 95.95 90.96
Idukki 92.11 85.04
Kottayam 97.41 94.45
Alappuzha 96.42 91.14
Pathanamthitta 96.62 93.71
Kollam 94.63 88.60
Thiruvananthapuram 92.68 86.26
Kerala 94.20 87.86

Source: Census of India,2001

Statistics showed that the female literacy levels in Kerala are improving over time. These literacy levels are highly correlated with the health status of the population. Kerala has the lowest infant mortality rates and the highest life expectancies of all the states. The pace of progress in the female literacy rate from 36.43 percent (1951) to 87.86 per cent (2001) was remarkable and reasonably a good indicator of development in the society.

Women's literacy in Kerala with insignificant gender and spatial disparities has been cited as a principal mover of many of the positive demographic indicators of the state. These indicators had resulted in the enhanced health status of women in Kerala. Female literacy and education are crucial determinants of child survival, general health and hygiene.

Source: IT Department, Government of Kerala