M.A. Baby, The Minister of Education, Kerala, India +in conversation with digital Learning
? Kerala ranked no.1 in the Education Development Index recently by DISE report. What brings this success to that State`s elementary education status?
Kerala is far ahead of other states with regard to literacy, life expectancy and lowest infant mortality rate. Education was given prime importance in the State in pre and post independence periods. The interventions by renaissance movements, working class movements and other social groups, the benevolent royalty, missionaries, etc. have helped in the spread of education in the State. The land reforms and minimum wage legislation have contributed to the increase in income among the peasants and agricultural labourers, which in turn has led to the growth in school enrolment. The interventions by progressive movements have helped in sustaining the growth of school enrollment and maintaining egalitarian nature of access in education.
? Although retention rate is high, the number of students enrolment at primary level is not encouraging and shows downfall every year. Reason? What motivation is created for children in the State?
The rate of growth of population shows a decreasing trend in Kerala. In 1951, the growth rate was 22.28%, whereas in 2001 it was only 9.42%. As a result of this, student enrolment also shows a decreasing trend.
? Kerala ranked 37 at primary level when Education Development Index takes into account the access parameter. Is access to primary education a challenge in the state? How to overcome that?
In the case of access in primary level, almost all the regions in Kerala have enough schools within their ambit. The spatial distribution of schools in 2002-03 shows:
In the corporation area there are 215 Lower Primary Schools, 114 Upper Primary Schools and 174 High Schools, totalling 503 schools. In the Municipal area, there are 554 Lower Primary Schools, 248 Upper Primary Schools, 313 High Schools totalling 1114 schools. In the Panchayath area, there are 5954 Lower Primary Schools, 2589 Upper Primary Schools, 2121 High Schools totalling 10633 schools. The data shows that there is no rural-urban disparity.
? The state is well ahead in percentage of schools having computer and shows a good leap from last year from 37% to 51%. Is there any reason that helped in this development? Any new computer aided learning activity/project or scheme being considered at elementary level?
At present, the State does not have any specific plan with regard to computer usage at elementary level. However, there are a number of primary schools with computer facility and Internet connectivity.
? Is teachers` training a contributing factor to UEE? But the total number of teacher in the state decreases every year?
Yes, teacher training is an important contributing factor to Universality of Elementary Education as teacher has an important role in the teaching-learning process. The training should focus on the social objectives to be fulfilled by the teacher.
The total number of teachers in the schools decreases proportionately with the decrease in student enrolment.
? Had you been in charge of education in states like Bihar, Jharkand, UP or West Bengal that make the last spots in Education Development Index, what would have been your primary focus to lead the state to achieve a top rank, like Kerala?
For improving the educational system in any State, we should focus on,