ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Towards People's Education System

Report of the Kerala Education Commission; Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad, Kochi, 1999; Rs 250.

This is the report of the Kerala Education Commission constituted by the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad (KSSP) with members from diverse academic fields, and chaired by Ashok Mitra. Unlike most recent education committee reports that draw on or call for the re-structuring of the education system only on the lines of economic rationality and management, this report draws on the premises of equity and excellence for developing an education system for people. Going beyond a mere overview of Kerala’s education system in terms of accessibility (measured typically in terms of enrolment), the report seeks to make links between a “democratic polity and the educational process” (p 26). The vexing problems of balancing universalisation with quality, democracy with accountability, affordability with economic rationale, local knowledge with globally valid information and skills; and of providing students with knowledge and life-skills form the grid within which all the problems and issues are contextualised. Bearing these in mind, the commission seeks to provide an outline of a system for people’s education that “transcends the prevailing biases and discriminations on the basis of caste, class, religion and gender (p 29). The report largely fulfils such a mandate set for itself and provides what is a comprehensive, well-thoughtout and relevant overview of Kerala’s education system – from pre-school to higher education, including technical and specialised centres, and offers suggestions to overcome key problems.

Though often upheld as a ‘model’ education system, within a ‘model’ welfare state, Kerala education system has its own set of woes. The questionable quality of education, the increasing growth of private primary schools and the growing levels of discontent in higher educational institutions are indicators of a more pervasive crisis. The report notes with alarm the problem of quality indicated by low levels of learning among school children and the relative lack of success of Kerala’s graduates at national level competitive examinations.

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