Vice President Hamid Ansari during his recent visit to Kerala officially declared the 100 per cent primary education status achieved by the state.
Kerala which is now reckoned as the first Indian state to achieve total primary education had also earlier been declared as the first complete literate state on April 18, 1991. According to the government this has been achieved through Athulyam, a primary education equivalency drive of the state literacy mission aimed at providing the people with primary education equivalent to grade four, the first phase of official school education. The program which was implemented with the help of local self governments and concerned authorities proved to be a huge success and is worth laudable. But the reality that there are still many hapless people deprived of literacy and rudimentary education even in the 21st century when science and technology are making giant leaps forward, triggers anxiety and is equally shameful. However, that Kerala stands much above all other states is a huge relief. A recent report has come up regarding the flipside of the state’s achievement. The literacy drive in the state has apparently lost its steam in the later years bringing down the literacy rate. According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) released on January 14, the number of primary school students in Kerala who doesn’t know to read or write is increasing. It reveals that a grade five student was unable to read the grade two textbooks. The number of children who could write the alphabets from A to Z correctly is very less even among the class eight students. The percentage of students who could do math came down from 80.1 per cent in 2010 to 39.3 per cent within 5 years. The report should be an eye-opener to the authorities as well as the people.
According to the National Achievement Survey (NAS) by NCERT, Kerala lags behind UP and Bihar.The SERT report earlier had also pointed out the deterioration of the standard of primary education in schools. Steps should be taken to analyse the reasons for the predicament of the primary schools and to find solutions to the problems. Many put the blame on the All-Promotion System which is cited as the main reason for the present condition of primary education. It’s a fact that students naturally tend to show less interest in studies if they are sure to get promoted to higher classes even if they didn’t study and are unable to read or write properly. It’s generally assumed that the government is reluctant to cancel the All-Promotion System due to the limitation of space and also the monthly income requirements that hikes up with the increase in the number of teachers. But the system alone couldn’t be blamed for producing the so called ‘illiterate’ students. The classes not functioning on all the 200 working days, the ever increasing number of teachers while they not being appointed properly at the required places, the majority of the teachers reduced to mere salaried staff and the lack of basic facilities in schools all contribute towards the ‘illiteracy’ of the literates. The reality, that the decline in the standard of public schools is the reason for the decrease in the number of children in government-aided schools every year and for the parents being compelled to opt for private schools, cannot be denied. However, in public schools functioning well, there is no issue of the number of students decreasing. The recent initiatives by the staff and parent-teachers associations to improve the standard of schools are laudable. If the government and the public join hands together, this ‘illiteracy’ is not something that couldn’t be resolved.