A Kerala Model for Universal Education

  • IASbaba
  • March 16, 2021
  • 0
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  • GS-3: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education, Human Resources 
  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

A Kerala Model for Universal Education

Context: India tops the list of countries with out-of-school children. The 2011 Census affirmed that 84 million children in the country do not go to school at all and 47 million children get eliminated even before Class 10.

Did You Know?

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in Article 26(1) and (2) by the General Assembly of the UN emphasises in clear terms that every individual has the right to education and that it should aim for holistic development which in turn would evolve respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
  • Seven decades after the UDHR, 58 million children are out of school globally and more than 100 million children get eliminated from the schooling system before completing primary education

Kerala Model

Kerala is known for its highest literacy rate in the country and one hundred per cent enrolment of children in primary and secondary education. Reasons for success of Kerala Model are:

  • Roots in Colonial Period: The historic royal rescript of 1817 proclaimed education as the “responsibility” of the state. Simultaneously, it emphasised that “political will” is more important than the political economy to decide the expenditure on education.
  • Strength of Teachers: With around 46 lakh students, 16,000 schools and 1.69 lakh teachers, the student-teacher ratio and student-school ratio reveal a desirable scenario. With more than 20,000 non-teaching staff, the teachers are not burdened with non-teaching or administrative work and are free to concentrate on their pedagogical roles
  • Consistency of Policies: The total literacy campaign started by the then Left Front government in 1989. The successful implementation of PRISM (Promoting Regional Schools to International Standards through Multiple Interventions) and whooping allocations to develop one school in each assembly segment to international standards is what can be seen as the reason behind the tectonic shift of 2.35 lakh students from private to public schools.
  • Funding: Successive governments in Kerala have increased the capital outlay to education and simultaneously decentralised financing of education through local bodies. The per capita expenditure on education is also on a steady rise.
  • Comprehensive Intervention: The Kerala model shows that comprehensive interventions pertaining to nutrition, health, sanitation, and early simulation can help to achieve sustainable growth in human development. 

Challenges in Universalization of Education

The Constitution of India provides for free and compulsory education for all children up to 14 years of age. In pursuance of this Government of India has enacted the Right to Education Act, 2009. However, the goal of universalization of primary education is still far from our reach. The factors that can be attributed to this are as follows:

  • Low Public Spending: The Union Budget 2021 budget allocated only 2.75 percent of the GDP to education. However, the Incheon Declaration to which India is a signatory, expects member states to spend 4-6% of their GDP on education to achieve SDG4.
  • Privatization of education: Decline of Public school system and simultaneous rise of expensive private schooling has made a large number of children being eliminated from the system at early stages. Private schooling are also criticised for their low quality, neglect of values, excessive focus on jobs and systemic inefficiencies
  • Qualitative Issue: Universalization of compulsory education has failed to catch up to the desired target because quality control of primary education has not been maintained. The successive ASER survey reflects the poor state of learning outcomes in primary education.

Way Forward

  • Active Role of State: To make education universal the state must find resources to provide ancillary services such as school health, mid-day meals, free supply of textbooks, writing materials, school uniform, etc (Similar to comprehensive intervention of Keral Model).
  • Civil Society Participation: The success of Kerala is made possible thanks to the collective efforts of the various departments of the government, officials, volunteers, NGOs, and friendly associations.
  • Social Auditing: There should be a Village or Mohalla School Committee in each village or urban area. Such a committee would look after the construction and maintenance of buildings, playgrounds, and school gardens, provision for ancillary services, the purchase of equipment, etc.
  • Increased Commitment: The kind of commitment or collective will shown for the provisions of electricity, water and roads needs to be developed for education as well. 


Unless education becomes an election and emotional issue akin to nationalism, we will have only a few pocket boroughs of royal rescripts like Kerala.

Connecting the dots:

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