According to a NSO survey, Kerala has the highest literacy rate in the rate in the country and 96.2% of the people have received basic education. The reasons for this are manifold. More than 200 years ago, in 1817, the regent queen of Travancore, Rani Gouri Parvati Bai wrote,
“The state should defray the entire cost of the education of its people in order that there might be no backwardness in the speed of enlightenment among them, that by diffusing education, they might become better subjects and public servants.”
After Rani Gouri Parvati Bai’s statement, public education picked up pace in the state with kings from places like Cochin (now Kochi) setting up public schools. Even Christian missionaries contributed heavily to the cause by setting up several schools. Till date, Kerala is following her advice and providing equitable education to its people. They have around 45 lakh students, 16,000 schools and 1.69 lakh teachers. Thanks to an additional 20,000 non-teaching staff, the disseminators of education are not overburdened with additional administrative work. The desirable student-teacher ratio and student-school ratio also adds to the state’s credentials as an education powerhouse.
Another aspect for which we should give Kerala a lot of credit is that there is no marked difference between the male literacy rate (97.4 %) and the female literacy rate (95.2 %). Compared to states like Bihar and Rajasthan, this is exceptional. In Bihar, the male literacy rate (79.7%) is almost 20 % higher than the female literacy rate (60.5 %). In Rajasthan, the gap is even wider as the male literacy rate is 80.8 % and female literacy rate is 57.6 %.
While the literacy rate in Kerala is exceptional, the same cannot be said for the rest of the country. The 2021 Union Budget allocated just 2.75% of the GDP to education which is a disservice to the cause. If we want to build a nation that thrives, we must learn from Kerala and adopt policies that promote access to quality education at an affordable rate.