Kerala Muslims: Socio-economic changes and spread of education
By Prof. K.M. Bahauddin, former Pro-Vice Chancellor, AMU
Kerala is often cited as a model for the spread of education in other states. In Kerala socio economic changes preceded the increase demand for education. The process started by the middle of the nineteenth century. The introduction of plantation economy and the increased price of coconut products brought modest prosperity to the Ezhava community. The result was increased demand for education for that community which was resisted opportunity for education brought about most of the socio-political changes in the state subsequently.
The migration to gulf countries started during 1970s originally from the backward district of Malabar because of poverty. Later the migration spread to other districts. Amritya Sen has pointed out that between 1970-71 and 1987-88, poverty in the state decreased from 69% to 44%, a massive 25% reduction in a state through there was practically no poverty alleviation programme, due to the remittance form the Gulf. The data available show that 69.5% of the Marthoma Christian families 54.7% Muslim families 36.1% Brahmin families 20.7% Nair families and 16.2% Ezhava families are receiving remittance from abroad. This economic change is increased demand for education.
Not only the Muslim community but all other communities have realize that education is the biggest wealth and are eager to give quality education to their children at any cost. This provides a fertile ground for communicating education caring for equity and social justice. Communities which had the monopoly on education would like to continue to maintain their position. At the same time communities which are entering the educational field would like to have equality and social justice. The struggle between the two broad trends are ed in the political field.
The lesson to be learned by other states from Kerala experience is that without economic and social change spread of education is not easy. Poverty elimination and removal of illiteracy should be considered as one unit.
Kerala had an indigenous village based education systems much before the British came to India. Each habitat had a Pathshala and an Asan or Ezhuthachan or Madrasa to teach the children. A survey conducted in 1822 by Munro showed that there were 579 indigenous schools in Malabar. The number of students came to 14155 in population of 907575.
From the beginning of 19th century the British government policy was to ensure continous tension between Muslims and the land owing upper castes. The introduction of English education and the evangelisation process were considered a threat to the cultural identity and even the survival of the community. In 882 Logan reported that the judiciary, the police and the government machinery joined together to suppress Muslim peasants. Under these circumstances it was natural for them to resist everything western including English education.
By the end of 19th century the British government realized that the spread of English education was essential to reduce if not prevent recurring rebellion in Malabar. Attempt was mdae to introduce English education in Madrasas which was failure. From 1886 special grants were earmarked for Muslim education. But the Muslim did not take up the modern education.
During 1950s about about 80 percent of the students admitted to educational servants and land owing upper castes. The Muslims and other backward communities came under the categories of petty traders and labourers and their presence in the educational field was only 3.7 percent at PUC level. The government introduced economic criteria for reservation in education. This policy was more beneficial o the forward communities. In 1965 out of every 100 Muslim students admitted to first standard only 6.3 was reaching 10th standard.
In the National policy on education 1986 stated that “ some minority groups are educationally deprived or backward. Greater attention will be paid to the education of these groups in the interest of equity and social justice”. (NPE) Six district of Kerela
(Malappuram, Kozhikode, Cannore, Kasargode and Wayand) were specially mentioned or greater attention. Yet practically nothing was done to increase the spread or improve the quality of education in those districts.
Kerela achieved universalization of elementary education during 1980s which means that social groups which were not keen on education had entered the educational field. Ill then about 37.5 percent of the state budget was being spent for education. It is natural that students completing the elementary education would be eager to continue their education in higher classes. Instead of providing facilities for such a surge in admissions, four successive governments reduced the education budget from 37.2 percent to 22.56. Commercialisation of education payment of capitation fee for admissions payment for teacher appointments and other irregularities became rampant during this period.
Educational situation after 2000:
There was practically no increase in the state budget for education during 2000-2005. In spite of that the educational growth was phenomenal specially in the Muslim community. By the year 2006 about 2000 Muslim students were getting distinctions in SSLC. Students getting 85 percent and above was between 1300-1500. This trend got reflected in competition and in getting ranks in exams.
The change in demands for admission in the school system was not taken note of by the government when +2 was delinked from the university system. More than required facilities were created in the southern districts and minimum requirements of the northern districts were not considered. The southern districts had facilities to educate more than 50000 third class students at government expense. At the same time 15500 additional seats were necessary for admitting he second class students in the northern districts. The deficiency in the northern districts was rectified by 2005.
Implication of 2007 SSLC results:
More than 90 percent of students from all communities were reaching 10th standard by 2005. With different pass percentages in different districts. In 2007 the pass percenage in the southern districts increased by about 5-10% while the percentage increase in the northern districts were 15-20 percent. Increase in pass percentage will create a shortage of admission facilities in the northern districts. One percent increase in pass percentage in Malapurram for example will add about 500 students eligible for admission to +1. The increased pass percentage in Malappuram district was about 16 percent. During 90s the pass percentagein Mallapuram was below 30 percent. In207, the pass percentage in 76.62.
The pass percentage in 10th standard of all the districts of Kerela have reached the same level. Therefore in future additional seat requirements at+1 level may not increase rapidly. The increase may be less than 1% on the basis of population growth.
However, the quality is different in different districts. If securing 1st class in the exam is taken as a yardstick of measurements, there is a difference of about 20 percent between Trivandrum and Malappuram in the percentage of students getting first class. It may take a few more years to bridge the gap.
However, the Muslim presence in higher education is lower than that of the scheduled castes. Having realized the value of education, there will be pressure from the community for reasonable opportunities for higher education. This is a natural process of social change and enlightened governments should provide opportunities for a smooth translation to a great and equal society in the state through education.