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Quality of education on decline in Kerala

G.K. Nair

Kochi , Dec. 26

QUALITY of education at all levels in Kerala has been showing a decline due to financial constraints resulting from quantitative expansion of the sector.

Shortage of resources has often resulted in insufficient funds allocation. As a result, even maintenance of the existing infrastructure of Government schools is rarely undertaken, needless to talk about upgradation or modernisation.

The situation has given rise to mushrooming of schools in the private sector, which are being run on commercial lines.

The State has around 13,000 schools of which 4,500 are Government schools while about 7,500 are private-aided and some 800 private-unaided schools.

A study by the NCERT showed that Kerala ranked very low among other States in terms of primary school children's learning achievement. "About 30 per cent of the children who complete primary schools do not reach the necessary achievement levels in literacy and numeracy," say Dr K.K. George and Dr K.K. Krishnakumar of the Centre for Socio Economic and Environmental Studies (CSES) here.

The situation in the secondary schools is not very different. The dropout rates especially in the 9th and 10th standards are quite high. This is particularly true for SC/ST students. Another major indicator for the inefficiency of school education system is the large-scale failure of students in the matriculation examination, they said.

Only about 50 per cent of the students who appear for the examination get through in spite of liberal valuation and provision for grace marks. Only one-third of the children who join the first standard manage to pass the matriculation examination.

An analysis of the average marks for various subjects in the 10th standard examination further illustrates the poor quality of Kerala's secondary education system. The average marks are: Malayalam - 26 per cent, Mathematics 18 per cent, English 15 per cent, Hindi 22 per cent, General Science 26.5 per cent, Social Science 20.5 per cent.

A recent study has shown that 44 per cent of the students in the 9th standard get less than 40 per cent in Malayalam, their mother tongue. More than 70 per cent get less than 40 per cent for mathematics and English.

The large-scale drop-outs in the secondary schools as also the high percentage of failures at the matriculation level, the low average marks scored etc., are manifestations of the low-level of preparation of students and their consequent inability to cope with even the modest sifting procedures. The state, thus, faces the problem of large number of children being rejected by the school system. The poor academic standards, they said, are understandable in view of the poor infrastructure and other facilities, which in turn is a reflection of the low level of investment. It is true that the State is spending more on education than most other States on per capita basis.

But a recent study has brought out that the per-pupil expenditure on secondary education is very low compared to other States. The per-pupil expenditure on secondary education in Kerala is only Rs 4,659, as against the all-India average of Rs 5,668.

In the field of higher education also, Kerala lags behind other States not only in qualitative terms but also in quantitative terms. This is yet another success-induced second-generation problem of the State's social development. The demand for tertiary enrolment in absolute terms is much higher in Kerala due to large-scale enrolment in schools.

But the State is not able to meet this demand due to financial constraints. As a result, the number of higher educational institutions per million-population is only 7.96 in Kerala as against 9.87 in the country. According to the two experts, while looking at the educational development of the State, all Finance Commissions failed to take into account some of the major deficiencies of the education sector.

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