Kerala’s social progress has set stage for lift-off into economic progress: Ansari
New Delhi, June 17, 2017
Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari today said Kerala’s social progress has set the stage for its lift-off into economic progress that is socially and environmentally sustainable.
Mr. Ansari was addressing the International Conference on ‘Inclusive Quality Education: Towards Sustainable Development Goal 4 and Lessons from Kerala Model’, organised by the Institute of Social Sciences on the occasion of the Bicentenary of Royal Rescript on June 17, 1817 in Travancore, Kerala.
It was on this day that Uthrittathi Thirunal Rani Gouri Parvathi Bai, Maharani Regent of Travancore from 1815-1829, announced that universal education was necessary to ensure progress of the state as a whole at a time when it was not practised in most countries, including those in the west.
It stated that the state should defray the entire cost of the education of its people in order that there might be no backwardness in the spread of enlightenment among them, that by diffusion of education they might become better subjects and public servants and that the reputation of the state might be advanced thereby. The Queen's proclamation of 1817 is hailed by all educational historians as the Magna Carta of education in Travancore.
“Whatever may have been the motivations for the then ruling royalty to undertake mass education, its results were spectacular. While the elite may have believed that by propagating education, they might have a more malleable population, but as Robert Merton described it, ‘the unanticipated consequences of purposive social action’ were diametrically opposite to what was perhaps intended.
"Ironically, the very educational reforms that were structured to make the populace easy to govern; helped inform the social movements that swept Kerala in the later years," he said.
The State intervention in making education more accessible was the precursor to the unleashing of progressive forces against backwardness, superstition, conservatism and casteism in Kerala. Education became a social movement thanks to the efforts of reformers like Sree Narayana Guru, the Nair Service Society, the Muslim Educational Society (MES) and Christian missionaries, he added.
Kerala's politics, especially after the 1950s, continued in the same leitmotif of combating social inequalities through public activism and spread of education. The elected governments have, in deference to the popular will of the people, pursued policies that have been aimed at enhancing the access to education.
The Kerala Education Act of 1958 was a landmark legislation and provided for the better organisation and development of educational institutions in the State. A noteworthy provision in the Act was free and compulsory primary education, a precursor to the National Right to Education, which was adopted across India only in 2010.
Central Government data indicates that Kerala was the best-performing state in terms of the decadal growth of population at 4.9 percent and had a sex ratio 1084, the best among the Indian States.
Infant Mortality rate (IMR) was the lowest in Kerala at 12, against the Indian average of 40. The State had a birth rate of 14.7 compared to Indian average of 21.4. These figures have their roots in the high literacy levels.
High literacy has also had an impact on other, more recent, socio-economic parameters. The percentage of households availing banking services, for example, was 74.2 in Kerala compared to a national figure of 58.7. Similarly, the percentage of households with toilets, something that the central government has been pushing strongly under the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan, in Kerala was 95.2% compared to India’s average of 46.8%.
The investments made in education bore fruits in the early 2000s with the state witnessing a remarkable growth- taking advantage of both its highly skilled and educated people and the opening up of the Indian economy to a fast globalising world.
By the end of 2010, even as the entire Indian economy expanded rapidly, Kerala’s per capita income stood at 34% above the Indian average.
The Vice-President said Kerala will have to focus on economic activities which make use of its unique strengths - an educated workforce, democratic institutions, and a favourable natural environment.
The requirement for the transition of the state into a true knowledge society is more education in ‘21st-century skills’, like critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, and digital literacy. Robust, inclusive and high-quality education systems – underpinned by qualified, professionally trained, motivated, and well-supported teachers – will be the cornerstone of this effort, he added.