With age no bar, non-formal education a hit in Kerala (Feature)

July 21st, 2008 - 10:45 am ICT by IANS  

By Jeevan Mathew Kurian
Kozhikode, July 21 (IANS) M.M. Jameela is 50 years old, but she is taking the Class 10 equivalency examination in Kerala next month in the hope of ultimately earning a graduate degree in Malayalam. Government servants, bank employees and even grandmothers like Jameela are among the thousands of school dropouts making a beeline for the non-formal education scheme of the Kerala State Literacy Mission.

“I had to discontinue my schooling after Class 7. I got married when I was 15. Now I am a grandmother. But I want to study till my death,” says Jameela, who is a member of the Feroke panchayat in Kozhikode district.

In the hope of being able to pursue higher studies or getting a career boost, nearly 13,000 people are expected to appear for the Class 10 equivalency examination being conducted by the literacy mission next month.

Jameela attends classes conducted by the literacy mission on the second Saturday and Sunday of each month. “There are around 70 students in the class. The classes are held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” she says.

According to her, many of the students are lower grade government employees. “They will be eligible for promotions if they pass the Class 10 examination.”

Kerala is a fully literate state but many have not studied in senior school; hence the enthusiasm for non-formal education.

N. Jayadevan, director of the Kerala State Literacy Mission, told IANS: “Classes for the second batch ended Sunday. Last year, around 2,800 enrolled for the programme and 1,600 of them appeared for the examination.

“This year, 12,712 enrolled for the programme and most of them are expected to sit for the examination.”

“The certificates for those who successfully qualify the Class 10 examination are issued by the Board of Public Examination just like those issued to the regular students and are equally valid. The certificate can be used for higher studies or for getting jobs,” he said.

This year, classes were held at 146 centres across the state. At least 25 hours of teaching is ensured for each subject.

“In many centres, the teaching hours even exceeded the stipulated 25 hours due to the enthusiasm of the teachers. We are only providing them an honorarium of Rs.75 per hour for a maximum of 25 hours,” said Jayadevan.

The annual course fee is Rs.1,200 while the students are charged Rs.500 for the examination. The classes for the equivalency programme are held on holidays and Sundays.

M.D. Valsala, the literacy mission district coordinator for Kozhikode, said: “For Class 10, there are 10 subjects, including an IT paper. The syllabus for the programme is different from that in regular schools. From Kozhikode district, 863 have attended the classes this year and most of them are expected to appear for the examination.”

The literacy mission also conducts equivalency courses for Classes 4 and 5.

Valsala said enrolment for the next batch of the Class 10 programme has already begun. “We have already sold 1,750 applications in Kozhikode district for the next academic session.”

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