news Friday, May 22, 2015 - 05:30

For a state that has lived off its “highest literacy rate” fame, Kerala’s unemployment rate is thrice the national average, raising questions about what has gone wrong.

Writing for Malayala Manorama earlier this month, Malayalam writer M Mukundan drew attention to the decline in the number of people from Kerala in the Central Secretariat Service. He lamented that the central secretariat in Delhi was once a mini-Kerala in the 1960s, but of the 12,000 employees working there today, there are just three Malayalis.

“We are people with high literacy, and we have made big gains in the field of education. Still we have shrunk to three,” Mukundan said.

Although the tone of Mukundan’s article was a eulogy of the “glorious period of Malayalis”, academicians say that the linkages between literacy, education and employment are complex.

The 2014 Economic Survey of Kerala found that the unemployment rate of the state to be over three times the all-India average. The data is based on the 68th National Sample Survey (UPSS) 2011-12.

However, Professor KP Mohanan of Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Pune disagreed and said that the decline in the number of Malayalis in the central secretariat could be due to political prejudices which may have nothing to do with competence or quality of education. 

He said that there was a need to distinguish between a degree certificate and education.

“One can be a degree holder and still be uneducated. So we have to first decide what we are looking at,” he said.

Mohanan also said “Literacy was not merely the ability to read and write words, but the ability to read, understand and critically evaluate such things as a newspaper editorial. Under this definition, a large number of degree holders in India, including those in prestigious institutions like IISER and IIT, are illiterate. This is true of Kerala as well. Many people who have Masters and PhDs from Kerala may be illiterate.”

Dr Radhakrishna Varier, Assistant Editor at the Printing and Publication department of MG University was of the view that employability of the people in the central secretariat was linked to declining standards of education in Kerala.

“It is not that there are no takers for government jobs now, they still remain to be attractive. It definitely indicates the incompetency of the students,” he said.

The reforms suggested by Kerala’s governor P Sathasivam as part of the Chancellor’s Council include collaboration with international organisations, raising the number of extra courses, time-bound schedule of examinations and declaration of results, improved syllabi, among others. The latest decision of the governor in this regard is to install CCTV cameras in examination halls.

These measures were proposed to apparently raise the quality of the universities, which seems have decreased over the years.

Though Radhakrishnan sees the setting up of the Chancellor’s Council as a positive step towards improving the standard of higher education, Mohanan is sceptical.

“Such was things happen every five years, but have not had significant effect on the actual student learning so far,” he said.

 

 

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