As per 2011 Census, Kerala has the highest literacy rate in our country. Much of the achievement is attributed to the Education Revolution in the state during the 80s and 90s. In 2013, Tripura and Mizoram claimed to have overtaken Kerala in this aspect but that should be the least of its worries.
The achievement is undermined by its rate of unemployment (which is highest in the country), huge number of school dropouts from the Dalit and tribal communities, low standards of higher education and lack of parental awareness.
In case of school level education, a study conducted by State Council of Educational Research and Training show 5% of 7th graders cannot identify alphabets, 35% cannot read or write Malayalam and almost 85% poor in basic sciences. 73% are reported to be poor in Mathematics. The state boasts of a maximum pass percentage of 96.59% in the SSLC Examination but by significantly reducing the minimum passing percentage to 30%. That comes in accompaniment with State Level Cultural and Sports competitions which give grace marks to students who bring a medal or an award to their school based on their performance. The students are thus compelled by parents to join an activity and are dependent on these grace marks to clear the examinations. The accolades secured are also given recognition while securing sub-standard state government jobs via the Kerala Public Service Commission. The purpose of extra-curricular activities is hence defeated. The Save A Year (SAY) and improvement exam schemes also partake in this degradation.
The higher education sector in the state is also not spared from low rate of placements and standard of education. Students vie for seats in government colleges through state entrance exams which have less than 10% student placement. Apart from this, students take educational loans to secure management quota seats. Parents fall for colleges which brandish their disciplinary prowess as a beacon of achievement. But unfortunately, engineering students in the state have a record 50% failure rate after graduation. Caught in the loan web, students and parents suffer in silence.
The reason indicates towards the lax policies of the State Government to sanction self-financing engineering colleges. The infrastructure is inadequate and pedagogy is not given a priority while recruiting teachers. Absence of soft skills training, strict discipline, overtly sexist rules and authoritative heads leave the education system in shambles. Politicization of student agitations, as seen in the recent Toms College, Nehru College and Law College Academy, is just a symptom of this mess. Thousands of MBBS and Engineering graduates are now languishing without a job. They hope against hope to secure lucrative bank or government jobs after graduation, but again, due to lack of soft skills, face stiff competition from their counterparts from other states.
The Kerala Government needs to understand the difference between literacy and education. Literacy alone does not generate employment. The system needs a massive overhaul so as to not desecrate the sanctity of the institution.