Governments and Culture: How Women Made Kerala Literate Author(s): Robin Jeffrey Reviewed work(s): Source: Pacific

Affairs, Vol. 60, No. 3 (Autumn, 1987), pp. 447-472 Published by: Pacific Affairs, University of British Columbia Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2758883 . Accessed: 17/03/2012 17:30
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

Pacific Affairs, University of British Columbia is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Pacific Affairs.

http://www.jstor.org

Governmentsand Culture: How Women Made Kerala Literate*
Robin Jeffrey

out lurchingnorthwards ofErnakulamearlyon a monsoonmorning soil and surgeddown in July1968.Heavy rain bubbled into theredlaterite werelet thesides of theroad like strongtea. The canvas window-curtains down to keep out therain, and theinside of the bus steamed.At the first the away,an old woman stop,I lifted curtainto letin someair. A fewmetres on dressedin white sat dryand comfortable the narrowverandahof her house. What startledme was what she was doing. She peered intently through thick spectacles,and propped expertlyagainst her crossed leg was-her morningnewspaper. I had been teachingin a high school in Punjab in northIndia for about a yearat thattime,and among 150boyswho weremypupils, onlyone wore even among men, was not somethingI spectacles. Newspaper-reading, having seen an old woman commonly saw, and I could not remember about what readinga newspaper.This was thebeginningofmyperplexity made Kerala literate.Though I could not have known it then, female literacyin Kerala in 1971 proved to be 54 percent;in Punjab, only 26 percent(Table 5). This essay triesto explain why Kerala is India's most literateregion. According to the census of 1981, 69 percentof all Kerala's people were the literate, thoughtheall-India ratewas a mere36 percent.Maharashtra, most literatestate afterKerala, had a rate of only 47 percent.' (For the problemof defining"literacy,"see the Note at theend of thisessay.) I have long agonized overany shortexplanation of what made Kerala or governments someWas it thepersistent policies of far-sighted literate. thingpeculiar to Kerala's culture?My bestpropositionwould be: governthe mentsand theirpolicies affected timingat which particulargroups of people in Kerala became literate;but culture2-and the most important
* The writer grateful a numberofpeople for on is to commenting thisessay,butespecially for to Rod Church of Brock University a painstakinglyconstructive reading of an earlier version. I Economic and Political Weekly, April 1981,p. 644. 11 2 This is to use "culture" in "its wide ethnographicsense": i.e., "that complex whole which includes knowledge,belief,art,morals, law, custom,and any othercapabilities and " of habitsacquired byman as a member society. See Edward B. Tylor,quoted in Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, David L. Sills, ed., vol. III (New York: Macmillan and The Free Press, 1968),p. 527.

A

SINGLE IMAGE

for dramatized Kerala'sliteracy me. I was on a bus

447

_. LIA ! | A~~~~~~' .Pacific Affairs aspects of old Kerala's culture were the attitudestowards women and about themselves-explains the eagernesswith which women's attitudes theyacquired literacy. soUTH ." Malabar was directly ruled bytheBritish. K4NAR4R DISTRICT RMADRAS /- 00.thecapital of thevast Madras Presidency.. 448 .~ J~~~~~~ERL ?? Mdes NJLGIR WATERRWAY AKUjA/ DITRIVADU | . Its chief officialwas the "collector" or "deputy commissioner" whose superiorswerein Madras City.~~~~~~~~ ARNALGAPLI .C oorKil CALIC A. overseenby a British "resident"or "political agent.) Travanlcore and (Cochin were princelystates under theirown maharajas. pre-1947 Showing Britishadministrative Districts and the PrincelyStatesof Travancoreand Cochin Kerala-the regionon India's southwestern coastwheretheMalayalam language is widelyspoken-was dividedunderthree different governments fromabout 1800 to 1949. o I KO Kj~~~~omgt~~ KERALA. (See Table 1 and Map.MALA(KARNATAKV D': > (%O- .

in Travancoredetermined the1860s to promote primary education in Malayalam.From the 1860s. alone they not yet explain Kerala's literacy:similar policies in otherparts of India did not The secondpartoftheessaytherefore producethesameresults. Travancore.400 45 8 19 28 Travancore 6."wroteMadhava Rao.Cochin.070. of Guided bythatmostremarkable nineteenth-century administrators.The Britishimposed a rudimentary bureaucracy but on Malabar earlyin thenineteenth century. will allow us.They were responding to the increased interest thattheexpanding worldeconomyshowed in therichcash-crops on thatflourished a tropicalcoast.423. T. however. 1941.000 1. GOVERNMENTS AND THE TIMING OF EDUCATIONAL CHANGE of The governments Travancore." Since Travancore "abounds with indigenous schools. ii. vol. I hope.800 48 30 20 2 Cochin 1.vol. AND TRAVIANCORE.700 40 7 21 32 Sources: Census of India.000 5. COCHIN.thetwoprincely wereseekingtogain renownforconducting states "progressive" administrations.929.000 7. Madhava Rao (1828-91). the spendingactivities itsgovernment. The first part of the essay examines what the threegovernments did. to it in distinguishtherole of educational policy fromthatof cultural factors making Malayalis literate. c 1940 Malabar Population. In part. xxv." it was the task of governmentto turn these 449 . Specifically. especiallytheplace ofwomenand thealacrity which theylearnedto read and write. Cochin. 1941 Area (square miles) Percentageof: Lower-casteHindus Muslims Higher-caste Hindus Christians 3.Travancore dramaticallyexpanded the taxing and of Cochin followedfrom late 1880s. and Malabar did not "modernize"at thesame time. Madras. from the latterhalf of the nineteenthcenturyonwards. "that theeducationofthemassesofthepeople mustbe conductedthrough the medium of the Vernacular language. xix.vol. substantial. exploresthe with roleofKerala's culture.How Women Made Kerala Literate The factthata single linguisticregionwas dividedamong three administrations provides an opportunity to examine how a similar culture respondedtodifferent governments. to make their do Those efforts wereoften subjectsliterate. itsscope was limited. TABLE 1 MALABAR. It was "evident.

primaryeducation-well-concentralized structed buildings. They can-and in India beforethe late nineteenth century.5 Moreover. KingsleyDavis. TAR).3 with those of BritishIndia. The Population of India and Pakistan bridge University Press. need to be made.coastal tradingareas tend to have higherratesof literacy. EducaPrincetonUniversity (Princeton. 153.4Under Britishrule. standardexaminations. Practical reasons-notably the vigor of the old village schoolsMadhava Rao's preference. 8. Throughout theworld. 78. findsGough's estimateunreasonablyhigh. local schools withered away.The children high-caste by familieshad theleisureto attendvillage schools which theirfamilieshad thewealth to support. regular hours. it was theselocal schools that so enthused Madhava Rao in the 1860s. 1866-7. printedtextof books. First.p.10 Nov. seemsvery it doubtfulthat wereas high as Gough estimated. which This policy contrastedstrikingly emphasized higher education in English. 1915-16. "Literacyin Kerala.as Gough argued in 1968. Graff. Two points. I HarveyJ. 9.like me.. KathleenGough.Michigan: University Michigan Press. perhaps mostimportant all. and declinedsteeply a result.The censusesof the 1870sfoundonly5 as literacy or 6 percentof Malayalis literate. Kerala societywas highly stratified. Indeed. Michael Tharakan.however. travelling inspectors. EvelynS. The regularrains and reliable. 132-60.pp. 1868). 1979). theydid-have otheraims: the teachingof cusI Travancore (Trivandrum:Government Report(hereafter.p.p.p. Rather. learningto modern ends. Literacyin TraditionSociePress. popular centres old-fashioned.1951). Schools need not promoteliteracy. ties (Cambridge: Cambridge University Century Travan"Socio-Economic Factorsin Educational Development." Economic and Political Weekly.Travancore aimed to create a regulated systemof vernacular. There are good reasons forpresuming that literacywas more widespread in Kerala than elsewhere in India in the eighteenthcentury. curricula.Case ofNineteenth core. 1968). 450 .New Jersey: of tion and Popular Literacyin Ch'ing China (Ann Arbor. thepercentages second.P. 1981).K. ed. In a pioneering articlein 1968. Administration Press.profitable crops demanded less effort from bulk ofthepopulation. Rawski. Kathleen Gough argued thatin preBritishtimesMalayalis werestrikingly literate: percentof men and 25 50 percentof women. helped to determine They also highlightthe importance of the cultural base on which Kerala's impressiveliteracy statistics laterrose..Pacific Affairs of oftensuperstitious.thelocal schools in Kerala did not collapse completely-as theyappear to have done in many other places-in the firstsixty years of the nineteenthcentury. Literacyand Social Development in the West(Cambridge: CamPress.and. 1984." in JackGoody. Highercastescould avoid all menial the tasksand leave cultivationto lowercasteswho wereconsideredto pollute their not of superiors merely touchbuton sight.ed. pp.

4-5. subjects.p.W."12 Government vernacularschools encountered the . "had forgotten letters. evenifchildren learntheir letters. literacy-oriented] education in thevernacularlanguage.1872-73.pp.especiallychaps. theold schools threatened frustrate to the aim of spreading "the blessings of a sound [i.thehistorian to retaintheskill if there ofpre-British educationin thePunjab. File No. 14 Ibid.8 To be sure. 2 and 3. Dewan.pp. G. Gopal Panikkar. old village schools werestillcommonin the and Cochin. 1866-67.9arrivedat in the censuses of the 1870s.theproportion of literateswould not have been great.6 did Moreover. "TAR."7 his Loss ofliteracy fairly is commonamong people who have no reason to use theskill. they had little opportunity was nothingto read. 9Censusof Travancore.religiousstories. Press. 1982). 451 .the Dewan (the develop its government-regulated Maharaja's chiefexecutive officer) foundin 1867that"thecountry abounds withindigenousschools. Trivandrum(hereafter.. 147-49."astrology. 1900). 1866.whenTravancorebegan to As Malabar District education system.even in societieswherereading materialis widelyavailable. Records hereafter.However. 128-29. 30. the of literacy figures roughly5 or 6 percent thetotalpopulation (20 percent of of Nayar males).. didacticand religious.e.10 we have seen.1968). Leitner. "greatopposition from indigenousmasters . At theturnofthiscentury. (Travancore Government English KS).1875). pp.Malabar and Its Folk (Madras: Natesan.How WomenMade Kerala Literate toms.pp. 145."13 The government's responsewas to coopt local mastersbyappointing them to posts in government-approved schools and lettingthem teach someofthetime-honoured vocal singingand poetry. handiwork. having finishedstudyingat the age of nine. 245-46. who often setup opposition schools in theclose proximity theGovernment of schools theirbestefforts induce theparentsof theboysand girlsto to and put forth patronizetheirown schools. TGER).Kerala Secretariat..W. Madhava Rao. "3TAR. capitalism" forEurope in the sixteenth Verso. 12 Memorandum by T.p. theevidencesuggeststhathigh-caste(and wealthySyrian Christian) Malayalis (see Table 1) were likely to have been more literate thanotherIndians before printingwas introduced."" Indeed. 15982.Given the factthat the local schools continued to functionin Kerala in the nineteenthcentury.may have been about rightforearliertimesas well."'14 6 Consider Benedict Anderson's emphasis on the importance of the birth of "printSee his Imagined Communities(London: century. competition the and beingdestroyed theinfluenceofthenativemaster beingenlistedin the cause of thenew system.1983).widespreadliteracy was neither possible nor particularly desirable.1875 (Trivandrum:Government 10T. 7G. University Imprisoned Tongues (Manchester:Manchester pp.Beforetheintroduction theprinting of press. Press. 8 RobertRoberts.HistoryofIndigenous Education in thePunjab since Annexationand in 1882 [1882] (Delhi: Amar Prakashan. 78. 128-29. Leitner. asserts thatMaharaja Ranjit Singh." Such schools were"well attended.K.

illustrates importhe Changing Kerala (New Delhi: OxfordUniversity and recitation. a or numberof textbooks. wherethelocal systems within a generationor two of the British had been virtuallydestroyed conquest.and the growing availability of things that could-or had to-be read. Wood.theold village school was popular and had survived seventy yearsofBritish overrule. economic opportunities. The schoolmaster as taughtthemsongs. TGER 15982. well as a littlearithmetic. tanceof memory 16 K. Nov.I would also stress of in tanceofthecommercialization agriculture makingliteracy the of theinsistence thegovernments Travancore(fromthe1860s)and Cochin (from 1890s) of on "qualified" employees.p. the curriculumof the old schools stressedlearning through than throughliteracy. This was in as contrast. ayurvedic medicine. pp. 10 March 1869. In short.in Wood.'8 and BenedictAnderson's"print-capitalism" had arrived.poems and stories. Fourth. Second.The government which by the early 1870s had written. Imagined Communities.Rather. by 452 . 3.Pacific Affairs Four aspectsof thispassage need emphasis.1957[?]). theold schools attracted bothboysand girls.pp.1985). 19Anderson. Dominance (London: Sussex University 21Memorandum Madhava Rao (1866). 7-8. It also but popular features.1963-64. 1976). Knowledge beforePrinting and After:The Indian Tradition in Press. "Socio-Economic Factors. 20 Shungarasoobyer Madhava Rao. '5 Ananda E. emphasizestheimpordesirable. Sankaran Nambudiripad. astrology.TGER.these schools were not intendedprimarilyto propagate literacy. 39.'9In 1866.theTravancore government appointed a full-time Directorof VernacularEducation-twenty-four Cochin took yearsbefore also setup a VernacularBook Committee thesame step.20 added a further It incentiveforschool-going: the to in introduction "a generaltest be passed as a conditionofemployment of thesircar[government] servicein any capacityabove thatof a peon [mes"21 senger].15 Third.theTravancoregovernment chose tooffer "modern"education in vernacular primaryschools. 17 Mannath Padmanabhan.The schools testify to thegreater freedom enjoyedby Malayali women. p."'6 He piercedtheirears and initiatedtheminto other social customs. 290. we shall see. Ente Jivitasmaranakal (Trivandrum: Nair Service Society Press. First. 1959. 149-50. Well-to-do families with relatives already working for the understoodthe message: see thatyourwards satisfy new the government requirements. 80. translatedinto Malayalam. 15982."part2. 1870.Details are in Robin Jeffrey. permitted old schools to retainold-fashioned the In theiroriginal form.and evenperhaps "some ornamentalsewing.'7 Literacy becamea desirablegoal onlyfrom about the1860sonwardsas a result of government policy.pp. Decline of Nayar Press. Madhava Rao to Shunto The 3 garasoobyer. Knowledge. not English secondaryschools.TGER. 46-49.theyimbued pupils with the customsof old Kerala. 18 Tharakan. pp. recitation rather Teaching people to read and write need not be themain aim of schooling.literacy becameprofitable necessary.withBengal and Punjab.

000pupils) eitherrun by thegovernment receivinggrants. At thesame time.orone student every 22 Atholl MacGregor.23 By preserving old schools.How WomenMade Kerala Literate In the early 1870s. On thecontrary.200 had to schools 60. the figures risen 1.young men.By 1881.thelargemajoritywantedtheir chargesto learntoreadand writebecause oftheprofit that could be gained thereby. encountered "theunwillingness ofparentsto send their childrento a distantplace. The neighbouringprincelystate of Cochin followed different of Travancore.22 Bythe and mid-i890s. 9 July1880. Ente. 1881. CAR). May 12 to 1880. the Travancore government claimed that 40 percentof the school-aged population-boys and girls-were attendingschool. 12-13.By 1891.pp.Madras Political Proceedings.Travancorehad 600 vernacularschools (with or 25.particularly vercommitting in to nacular education. schools that met certain standardswere awarded a grant based on the numberof students therolls.Cochin was and twenty yearsbehindTravancorein "modernizing"itsadministration substantialamountsof moneyto education.papers would deal withyou. MannathPadmanabhan.not so much through the efforts the old mastersas throughthegrowingdemandsofguardians:bythe1890s. evenin a statelike Cochin. compact By in for only860 students government-approved schools.000pUpilS. 140.paid bythegovernment and themselves of theproductoftheregulatedsystem education.1895-96. 24 Padmanabhan.p. 16.24 Cochin. Commerceand bureaucracy expandedirresistibly. of 23TAR.discovered that education that guardians were willing to pay money for the systematic teachers like himself wereable to give. Resident.Yet-and thispoints to theimportance Kerapolicies from la's culture-Cochin producedthesame levelsof literacy and demandsfor literacy-oriented schooling. partoftheplan tocoopt thevillagemaster.But theold masters overnight. Christianmissionarieswerealso quick to on tap such assistance.The plan.Government OrderNo.p.theTravancoregovernment the retainedthe trust elderswilling to send theirchargesto institutions of run by known did not learn new tricks and respectedmasters. 1870-71. 304. the1870sitattempted establisha network district of English schools thatwould channel boysinto theHigh School in Ernakulam. however. was still difficult.in the Madras ResidencyRecords."25Movement. 25Cochin Administrative Report (hereafter. Untouchedbynew-fashioned Maharajas untilabout 1890. People could notignoresuchchanges: ifyou did not learn to deal withpapers.National Archives India.for example. the Travancore government introduceda further As innovation:thegrant-in-aid. It becamea of goal. bringing gain to thosewho had skillsand qualifications-and foreshadowfor ing disaster thosewho had none.to theChiefSecretary theMadras Government.began toworkside byside withtheold masters. moreover. 453 .Cochin had small.and literacy only slowlybecamea goal of such schools.

. Cochin. 94.Cochin untilthe1890sattempted promotesecondary education in English. Travancore(Trivandrum: Press).P. be studying. 29J.Cochin's both werefarahead of the figurewas only 42 percent. when Travancore claimed that 64 percentof By boysof school-goingage werein government-approved schools.900 146.300* 2. 22 (2 June 1896). 2 1870-1TO 1940-1 SCHOOLS TOTOTAL POPULATION. April 1891.100 6.600 3. 1896-97(IOL). vernacular to schools. 30 30 Travancore Government Gazette(Trivandrum:Government Press) (hereafter. "which hitherto . while Travancore was spending substantial amounts on cheap. XXXIV.CARs. and Cochinvolumes theappropriate for Census of India.500 2.3 percentof its budgeton education.300 1:742 1:110 1:76 1:31 1:16 1:21 1:10 1:9 1:8 Population (thousands) 600* 600 600 700 800 900 1. vol.000 3.400 17.In further contrast.300 2.600 159. . It appointeda Superintendent VernacularEducation onlyin of 1890 and began to distribute grantsto privateeducational bodies only in "Vernaculareducation. TABLE RATIO OF STUDENTS TRAVANCORE AND COCHIN. Travancore years.900 5.CARs.500 184.000 1:3000 1:800 1:698 1:287 1:47 1:23 1:12 1:8 1:8 1870-1 1875-6 1880-1 1890-1 1900-01 1910-11 1920-1 1930-1 1940-1 and Sources: Administration Reports ofTravancore Cochinfortheappropriate years. popular.D. v/10/989 (India OfficeLibrary). Travancore's ratio was one studentforevery76 people (see Table 2).30 thesame time. Travancorein 1885-6spent3.Cochin also spent a lower proportionof its annual budget on education than Travancore. July1898. 454 . ."28 1898. Rees. of whereonly27 percent school-agedboysweresaid to Madras Presidency. 1889-90.Pacific Affairs 698 people. has at last Until the 1890s.700 392. no.200 39. received little or no attention .500 84.100 20. annually Note:* At1875 census. local.400 Cochin Students to PopStudents ulation 200 750 860 2.200 1. 28 27CAR.8 percent.100 84. Statisticsof from Government 1920.26Thus.girls.500 747. TGG).900 575.to Chief Secretary.000 177.000 1.and Muslims. . been noticed.100 Travancore Students to PopStudents ulation 3. IN GOVERNMENT-RECOGNIZED Year Population (thousands) 2. 2.29 workedat a different The two governments incentives pace in offering to lower castes. offered for primary 26 in 1891. Travancoreabolished feesforgirlsin it At incentives schools schools in 1896." wrotetheBritishResidentabout Cochin 1889. Resident.27 30 Hannyngtonto ChiefSecretary.900 33.400 3.

This is particularly noticeablein thefirst twenty-year period.4 9.34 In Travancore.1 0. Cochin. By 1910.1934).1 3.000 1.8 13.2 Pop.2 1. CAR.Protestant Christianity. timesgreater and nearly a quarter of all Travancoreans were literate(see Table 4).vol. free primary girlsand lower-caste Hindus came only in 1909.200 1.33 The different timing increasesin enrolment of showsclearlyin Table 2.6 4. 271. 455 . 24.300* 2. People '000s '000 rupees per rupee 2.By 1921.It is reasonable to assume that these increases resultedfromlarge numbersof lower-caste time. one TABLE TRAVANCORE AND COCHIN.0 30.32 Cochin. the studentsgoing to schools forthe first increasedfrom7 percentin 1911 to 12 proportionof lower-caste students percentin 1920 and 25 percentin 1926. 1911-12. forexample.35 Table 3 further clarifies timing. 1911.6 1.p. 50.6 people. But as late as 1900.0 21. Expend. Protestant Christianity and People's Movementsin Kerala (Trivandrum:SeminaryPublications.400 3. p.6 9.p.403 1.theratioin Travancorewas 1:10.""31 In for educationfor education free all lowercastes.300 2. 35 Gladstone.500 to 16.Report. Note:* At1875 census. C part 1. they represented10 percent of enrolments. 16 Travancore'sratioofone student every people in 1901was nearlythree to thanCochin's 1:47.910 5. ofI). People '000 rupees per rupee 10 20 28 72 99 279 892 1. 33CAR.9 0. NUMBER OF PEOPLE FOR EACH RUPEE Year Travancore Educ.pp.2 1. 1984). '000 600* 600 600 700 800 900 1. Cochin reached the same levels in the next ten years.7 1870-1 1875-6 1880-1 1890-1 1900-01 1910-11 1920-1 1930-1 1940-1 and Sources: Censuses Administration Reports. 32 Census ofIndia (hereafter.Until about 1910.100 123 195 184 272 532 742 3. 274.500 2.Travancorespent the more moneyper person on education than Cochin.W.7 11. 31 J. the numberof "backwardcaste" students increasedfrom6.000 3.900 5.Travancore was spending one rupee on education forevery5. Pop. 1908-09. In Cochin. 34 Report of the Education Survey Committee.0 1.100 6.600 3.221 4. 40-41. 3 1870-71 TO 1940-41 SPENT ON EDUCATION. XXIII.7 8. Expend. Gladstone.000in theyearafter their education became free.p.400 Cochin Educ.6 5.129 18. Travancore. Cochin State (Ernakulam: Cochin Government Press.899 60. p.How Women Made Kerala Literate Ten yearslater it made primary establishedforthe "backward castes. 163.

Pacific Affairs rupee for every8. as happened to some extentin Cochin when a was introducedin the 1890s.2 10.9 40.4 13.7 36.2 25.3 14.It is this:that for thefigures particularcensuseserred.4 69.6 percentin 1961). 1910s.2 Travancore 5. in 48. 1871-75 1881 1891 1901 1911 1921 1931 1941 1951 1961 1971 1981 11.4 39.3 5.0 7.4 .1 people. Only in thedecadeoftheFirst War did Travancoreappear to surgeahead.18.4t 13.but. 4 1871-1981.8 60.4 30.8 9.8 Tanjore MadrasPresidency5.8 5.1 18.7 25.7 KERALA Tinnevelly 8.1 11. heaviercommitment educationand directed increasingly it from the 1890s towardslarge. strictly regulatedsystem over the Cochin and Travancore literacy ratesin the My perplextity nineteenth century (see Table 4) was sharedby Cochin's census commis456 .5 45.I believe.The first thatthecensus unreliable. This helps to explain the sharp increasesin therateof literacy which began to show up in the Linking Policy and Literacy.4 15.8 6.2 41.FOR SELECTED AREAS MALE AND FEMALE COMBINED.0 24. For all itsimaginativepolicies and expenditure.8 8.3 20.But did Travancore'sefforts from 1860sto the to If coopt thevillage school makeanydifference itslaterliteracy rates? one looks hastily theliteracy at figures thecensuses.9 9.1 4 28. Whyshould it have takenfifty yearsforits educational policies to show dramaticresults? TABLE LITERACY PERCENTAGES.1 12.0 19.3 TAMILNAD ALL INDIA 5. is possibility morecomplicated.1 23.9 47. The Travancore government thus made an to earlier.2 - 23. Travancorewas in behindCochin in literacy 1891.hitherto excluded groups. t Kanyakumariarea now a separatedistrict (literacy: is There areat leastthree possibleexplanations.5 Cochin Malabar District 5.6 24.2 33.4 15.5 15.1 10.0 45.0 12.thatit tookmorethantwogenerato tionsforgovernments makeliteracy-oriented educationreadily available to most sections of society.7 4.and thetwostates considerably remained World roughly equal forthenextgeneration.0 29.moreaccurate. in one could arguethatthis strategy simply wasted resourcesand retardedthe spread of literacy(see Table 4).8 14.5 8.3 7.0 12.1 16.9 7.3 9.8 31.and that Travancore's gentlenesswith the the village schoolmaster prevented childrenofthe"respectable poor" from abandoning schooling.The second is thatTravancore'spolicies in are statistics totally the late nineteenth century-itsreadinessto accommodatetheold typeof The third the schoolmaster-may in facthave retarded spread of literacy.7 46. Notes: * Travancore-Cochinstatewas formed 1949.6 9.0 13.7 Sources: Census ofIndia forrelevant years.5 36.

In Travancore. I.38 are Cochin. In old familieshad oftensponsoredvillage schools. 22. It had also long been famous forits portand overseastrade."40 moreaccurately calculated in 1891. towardstheold village master Travancore'sgentleness encouragedthe childrenof the "respectablepoor" to continue to attend school. 38 Literacy in Travancore'snineteentownsin 1921. 36 37 C of I. the old village schools were only slowly absorbed into the Census of Cochin (hereafter of C). he wrote.had begun to commitits efforts educationonlyeightmonthsbefore censuswas carried the vernacular out. had characteristics makeitreasonabletosuppose that Cochin. 1891.forexample.theseaspectswould have raisedtheproportion of literates.part 1. other.vol.Whyshould Cochin have shown a higherliteracy towards Travancore?Cochin. Its census-takers have been even moreloath than thosein Travancoreto inquire too closely of about theattributes "polluting" castes or thewomen of "respectable" The administrative families. First.' The commissioner 1891 contended that earlier censuses had involved "considerable fudgin Literatesin Cochin maywell have been underestimated 1875and ing. C 1931. . XXI. have told me that their perfunctory 39 in scheduleswerefilledup withouttheir knowledge. however.bureaucratizedadministration than Cochin.p.p.p. part 1.buy books. 88. 16.In earliertimes. I. 1891. Reportp. XXV. Cochin.' He attributed anomaly to underenumerationof literatesin Travancore. Report. to which Kerala. 40 C of C.vol. Travancore had been making similar efforts nearly 25 years: "one for '36 the cannot help being surprised. 39 C of C. moreover. p. it would have a higher rate of literacythan Travancore. 1875.vol. C of I. was a small state with a larger proportion of functionariesand courtiersthan Travancore. Even Malabar District had a more systematic. 457 . 25.vol.. Report. wealthy (but usuallyhigh-caste) The introduction a government-regulated of school system requiringstudents to pay fees. 81.How WomenMade Kerala Literate ratethan sionerin 1891. Cochin's census commissionerin 1875 admittedthat "there is some reason to suspect that the Enumeratorshave done theirwork in a manner. 1921. high-caste less families also senttheir children. Several of my friends. Travancore. modernization thatTravancorepursuedfrom the 1860s did not happen in Cochin until the late 1880s.Cochin's administration thenamong was in would themostcaste-boundand old-fashioned India. But whywas Cochin apparentlyless literate thanTravancorein 1875? There is a plausible explanation. To some extent.more of Cochin's people lived in towns-seven percentagainst 4.2 percent in 189137-and town-dwellers more likelyto be literate. was roughly50 percent greater than thestateaverage. and attend regularlycould have made it for difficult the "respectablepoor" to keep theirchildrenin school.he may have been right.

Indeed.moreresidents Cochin had reasonto be literate. of of "The immediateeffect" the introduction the government-regulated in of the of system education in 1890was "a retrogression literacy. XX.now did not send theirchildrento school at all. Afflunow demandedfrom government ent families-who had formerly supported the village school and its schools. predicted fallin literacy. 98-99. and its rigours were only slowly applied-keeping of pace. in many." unable to cope with the demand forregularfeesand attendance. thatthechildrenofthe"respectable local schools. Remaining but moreand moreregulated.PacificAffairs government system.and the government-regulated "respectablepoor.Report.the census commissionerexplicitlyaccounted fordevelopmentsin Cochin. By 1901. pp. The childrenof the "respectablepoor" flowedto school unabated. the village schoolmaster.The introduction better percentto 13. rosemoresharply widelyvalued. Cochin's literacyrate had dropped-from 18.7 to 11 percent). The Cochin with the local schools until the 1890s. 1901.in his lax way. Developments in Cochin offersupporting evidence.In the If of now was past.childrenof the "respectablepoor" oftenstoppedgoing to any school at all. one mayguess. In the1890s. Cochin. growth schools ofthemoderntypenothaving keptpace withthedecayof primary 42 42 Ibid.stillslightly schools had undercut the old masters. 92-93. Travancoredid show a steadyincrease qualification-granting in literacy between1875and 1891(5. 458 .0 of thanTravancore's. literacy between1891and 1901. Vol. was capable of impartingit.42In 1911. pp. literacy what guardians wanted. The village school did not provide the qualifications the thoseto whom it would givejobs. Between1875and 1891.The government not interfere did of resultwas thatin the late 1870sand 1880s. Cochin abruptly of adopteda system government however.Perhaps we can infer poor" continuedtoattendtherelaxed.withguardians'growingrealizationofthenecessity education.Thus. C of 1. the new government fell Cochin. part1.these schools increasinglyprovided a desirable commodity-literacy.as theprofitability literacy became moreapparent. For master-sent their children to the government-regulated schools were too rigid and costly. whose mastercontinuedto enjoy thepatronageof prosbecause literacy was now more perous families. and his relaxedschool foundno place.4' he was right.3..Cochin's literacy thanTravancore's (even allowing forinaccuraciesin thecensuses). the census commissionerin 1891 expectedthe old schools to witheraway and thoughtit unlikelythatgovernment-regulated schools He a and would be able tofilltheir place entirely.the "respectablepoor" still senttheirchildrento the local school.Childrenbecame literate.literacy-oriented popular and respected. regulationin which theold master As a result.

Literacywas not theirgoal. In Punjab.primary and theadvocatesofthe"filtration theory"-thathigherstudiesin English would "filterdown" to the masses-won the debates at the top levels of government. identified same process.000 had striven lurepupils pupils. in History.weresimilar. Bengali-medium. 1. Leitner. theywere leftlargelyunchallengeduntil the beginningof this century. Rawat.theold village schools fadedaway.BritishBaptist Missionaries in India. 46 P.p.46 and Having lost their wealthiest. The similarities after1890are notable.and that in Travancore the governmentcoopted them. whichwas farbeyondtheaspirations p. 53.1967). 1981).had village schoolsbefore imposition the ofa Britishsystem education.45Adam of advocateda strategy incorporating thesepopular local institutions a into education system.L. 48Ibid. pp.) In Bengal. But in BritishIndia. Education in Bengal. forthey. i..In thiscontext. But Macaulay British-style. highest-status pupils to thequalification-granting BritishsyswithCochin's experience tem.thelocal schools collapsed.000pupils had beenattending morethan village schools. 1793-1837(Cambridge: CamPress. "Patshalas into Schools: theDevelopment IndigenousElementary of University Westunpublished doctoraldiss.about system. William Adam's surveysof rural education in the 1830s of estimatedthat two-thirds villages had a school-making a total of perhaps a hundredthousandschools in thevast province. vol. and because "official" credentialswere as increasingly regarded essential. bridgeUniversity of 45 Kazi Shahidullah. Adam's plans werenot attempted. Daniel Potts. 1854-1905. part1. C of I. is worthcomparingKerala with otherareas ofIndia. it Malabar and Elsewhere. 114.48 Leitner'sremarkemphasizedtheimportant factthatliteracy increases when people come to see it as a useful. 43 44 459 . In 1882. 330. Shahidullah forlettingme read his thesisand to Dr."43It took twenty yearsforthe new system takeup theslack leftby theold. XVIII.thefirst principleof Government College. (In Malabar.after this twenty yearsof Britisheducational efforts.Report. HistoryofIndian Education [1956] (Agra: Ram Prasad and Sons. 16. History. E. thereal value layin English literacy." to ernAustralia.he argued. 160. 4 Leitner.1983.How WomenMade Kerala Literate to theold indigenous schools. as we have seen. The crucial differences of seem to be thatin Kerala thesevillage schools were more deeply embeddedin societythan elsewhere. PeterReeves forbringingit to myattention. 1911.p. had plummetedto 190. Lahore. p. Schools in Kerala. Cochin.I am grateful Dr." Such schools were "based largelyon oral work" and had no printedbooks.saleable skill. He contendedthatBritish-sponsored the education fromabout 1850 had largelydestroyed flourishingvillage school a When the Britishannexed the Punjab in 1849.47Officialsof theEducation Department to from the indigenous schools. too.

a school system.See C.Report. Malayalis. Though Malabar accounted forless 19C ofI.literacy promoting it were established.Fromthatbase.after all." in Jeffrey.vol. more than in any otherdistrict the Presidency. IX. 1961. 1920-37(Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress. 17.itsliteracy had showna similarsteep rate climb between1931and 1951 (14. had a high proportion(roughly30 percent)of poor Mappila (Muslim) tenantsand landless labourers. 15. for Moreimportant mypurposes. III. 1976).part1. shareda commonculturalbase withotherareas of could rise-once theconditionsfor Kerala. too. thereby It school-going tendency thatalreadyexistedin Kerala. 202-23.51By 1936. DistrictCensus Handbook: Thanjavur. sityPress. Madrasand Coorg.Because ofthewar. p. ratewas always well ahead of thePresidency and theall-Indian averages.Yet fromthe first census in 1871. part X-V.50 The people of Malabar seized theseopportunities.p. Madras. they had relativesin Cochin and Travancore. and there of By 1951. 136-69. neglecteddistrict the on It of periphery theMadras Presidency. "Travancore: Status.Baker.and literacy Hindus was among Muslim womenand thelowest-caste low.pp.had to exist.3 million in 1922-23and Rs.The PoliticsofSouth India.. 33. forexample. vol.The matrilineal customs of many Hindu castesundoubtedly explain thisaspect.4 million in 1917-18to Rs.Malabar was themostliterate district theMadrasPresidency. I. 50 From Rs.forMalabar had fewChristians. Robin Jeffrey. The reforms introducedin the India Act of 1919 led the local-government to Madras government spend more moneyon education. vol. 51 See. 24.49 Travancore'sand as Cochin's had in earlierdecades. C of I. literacy-oriented open to mostsocial groups. Malabar. Malabar always led the Presidency.Those conditions were the same as elsewherein Kerala: most social groups had to perceivethatliteracy was profitable.but peculiar features Kerala's culturedetermined of Malayalis' eagerresponseto particMalabar was a relatively ular kindsof initiatives. Malabar neverranked lower than thirdin of and its literacy literacy among districts thePresidency.1978).2 million in 1932-33. 1951. 460 . The example of Malabar District supports the proposition that government activity producedaccelerationsin literacy rates.PacificAffairs of thevast majorityof villagers.pp.thetime-lagappears to have beenabout twenty years. and in Malabar.Class and thegrowthof Radical Politics. People. 9.The princelygovernment Travancore of as chose to emphasize vernacularliteracy an acceptable qualification for reinforced firmly the established manyofitsoffices. The timingof thisaccelerationwas relatedto government activity.the Malabar DistrictBoard ran twelvehundredschools.Moreover-and to herewe return thecrucial aspectof Kerala's culture-in femaleliteracy.the census of 1941in BritishIndia did not compile literacy statistics.They were. and social movements and economic opportunitiesin the two statesalso affected Malabar people.J.9 percent).4 to 30. had to be materialto read. however. Princesand ParamountPower (New Delhi: OxfordUnivered.

goes schools. By 1941.only slightlymore than half that of Travancore or Couchin. By 1921. 1936. in-aid. and had a controlwhenhe hundredand eighty vernacular schools undergovernment in retired. 3258of25 August 1937(Tamilnad Archives) (hereafter.p.8 percent.in Cochin after1921.TNA).and in Malabar after1931. rangedfrom3 percentin Malabar to 4. ing literacy.Its famedconcentration Brahmins gave it a male literacyrate of 24 percent.and once literacy-oriented was put within people saleable qualificationson thebasis of thatliteracy) reach. rolesof Kerala cultureand government in activity fostercomplementary.pp. vol. But femaleliteracy 1901 was only 0. fromtheold village schools. 1928). where he attemptedto duplicate the education systemhe had set up in Travancore. 24 March 1953. literacy Baroda alwaysexceededtheall-India averin while in Kerala it age. not by but the provincial government. The Hindu.Tanjore's totalliteracy was as Malabar's (about 13percent).Malayalis of mostcastesand religionsflockedto such institutions.53 Thereafter. which did do so.9 percent.Madras Local Administration. 89." to the government-supervised or years.How WomenMade Kerala Literate population. He starteda vernacular education department.Tanjore (Thanjavur) Districtwas the in in of mostliterate theMadras Presidency 1901. 197-98. XVII. by local managementsreceivinggrants- but Malabar reinforces the points I have made about the different. Female education was not encourageduntil well into the twentieth in and less century. 9." bytheSpecial Officer. pp.most Malayalis-the largestexception withschoolingand readytosendeventheir beingMappilas-were familiar rather thansimplyschoolgirlstoschools. 56.Tanjore's high male literacy compen52 "Reporton theBifurcation theMalabar District of Board. Sergeant.he wentas Dewan to the large princelystateof Baroda in what is today Gujarat. The career Madhava Rao after left dewanshipofTravancorein of he the of in evidencefortheimportance Kerala'sculture genfurther 1872provides In eratingliteracy. took twenty thirty ratesin Travancoreafter somewaytowards explaining thesurgein literacy 1911. femaleliteracy 1901was only0. 5 Philip W. The Ruler ofBaroda (London: JohnMurray.54 Baroda lacked Kerala's particular cultural attributes-especiallyKerala's attitudeto women. quadrupled spending on education.5 percentin Cochin.total literacyin Baroda was 23 percent. Once theadvantagesofliteracy.In pre-British times. One can multiplyexamples thatpoint to the importanceof Kerala's culture in explaining its literacy.higher than thatin to Travancoreor Cochin.Baroda. July 19 no. 461 . thana sixthof ratewas roughlythesame thatin Cochin. schooling (which gave ing. 1941. 1875. And more than 70 percentof those schools were run.52 54 C of I. were perceived.110.This.thetransition literacy or hand out "qualifications. ButTamil Brahminswerereluctant educatetheir girls. I think.which did not stress However. it had 10 percent the of thaneightpercentof thePresidency's schools.

pp.59 As long as censuseshave been taken.I knewthen the flared andI usedan abusive expression. Mytemper coconut!'Somehowmyfather of translation whichis.p. Girls'School Education and Social Change (Bombay:A. Report. ifa small girl began to play withpens can to her and books.A couple of boyscamefrom breasts. Madras. the thatvividlyillustrated distinctive place ofwomenand schooling story in Kerala's culture. Sudra [i.S.p.. the I in Travancore the 1870s. tales].. women in Travancore and Cochin appear to have been more than twice as literateas those in the 1931.said."58 be withattitudes elsewherein India could scarcely more The contrast forexample. 1971). The quotation fromAdam is fromhis second report." day Malayalam. 'Your mother's politest of and shallnotgo toschoolany incident hedecreed.P. CULTURE: How WOMEN MADE KERALA LITERATE tolda of Janamma.S.she a public road.she was highlyliterate old.well past puberty. Yet even at this stage.'That girlhas magnificent opposite of words but I justa few Theythought wouldnotunderstand.' to and direction pointing me. Nayar]femalesare taughtto read and write. The proportionof females was tiny-less than one percentin the literatein the nineteenth century 1870s (see Table 5).butgoing to school withherfriends.Kerala's literacy womenhave literate was favourableto schooling-even forgirls. 'Janamma cametoknow this whyI'm suchan ignoraand That was theendof myeducation. XIV. appears thatJanamma was fairlytypical.e.R. Menon. K. literate men have literate The lesson seemsto be this:literate ency.. 187-8."57 thatmostof the declared:"It is remarkable Samuel Mateer.. 38. 56 462 . 57Ibid. that's longer. Many Worlds[1965] (Bombay: Pearl Books.P.. Belyingherremark in knew enough English to understandtheboys). "I would sitbyhersideevery untilI was 14or 15years K. on unescorted merely going to school. about being an ignoramus(indeed. thesex. 130. 1871).adults would try distract with toys.. .In 1877. 4. of "the majority Hindu families"believedthat"a girl taughtto writeand that becomea widow. Menon (1898-1982)."shewouldsay. Menon wrote.themother thediplomat K. theworst misfortune after readwill soon marriage befall. p.p.] was only 14 then. [This was in "One day.' mus. Bengal.vol.Pacific Affairs always the highestin the Presidsated forby Malabar's femaleliteracy." In Gujarat.p. 58 Samuel Mateer. sons. Sheth. part 1.P. 283. "and hear her read the Puranas [mythicHindu it Moreover. 55 C of I. Native Life in Travancore(London: JohnSnow. I did.William Adam reported the 1830sthat in In striking. .55 grewon a culturalbase that children. Malayalam up English.a missionary."I was goingto schoolwithmyfriends. 59ChitraDesai.S.women in Kerala have been more literatethan women in otherparts of India. .."56 not In the1870swe finda girlofgood caste(a Nayar).1976). 7.

First. details.9 13.7 0.7 0. area district 40.6 0.the figures approximately190:100.60 TABLE PERCENTAGE OF FEMALES LITERATE.6) 7. and Malabar had fallen to thepoint wheremale literacy thanfemale.1 1. district. Status Women India (NewDelhi:IndianCouncilof ii) of as 7.5 .4 6.9 9.0 .5t 3. 188gives percent the1951 p.0 .5 1. 1985).5# .4 . Moreover. therewas a male-femaleratio of 17 to 1.5 3.3 12.0 1.9 18.1 0. figure India.3 18.2 0. the 1980s. 26.7 5.0) 37 0* 18.5 3.How WomenMade Kerala Literate neighbouringMadras Presidency.9 34.In India as a whole.9 .1 2.1 3.9 3.only of in hundred. on theotherhand. the proportionof literatewomen in Travancore was nearly than thatforIndia as a whole: 15 percentofall females eighttimesgreater wereliteratein Travancore.0.5 30.By 1981. In 1921. by 1951 the disparitybetween male and female literacyin Travancore.4 2.3. FOR SELECTED 5 AREAS 1875 1881 1891 1901 1911 1921 1931 1941 1951 1961 1971 1981 Travancore Cochin Malabar Dt KERALA Tinnevelly Tanjore Madras Psy TAMILNAD ALL INDIA 3.5 4.3 1.9 0.0 9.roughlya thirdofall femalesin Travancore and Cochin wereliterate.7 24.2 26.8 23.5 0.for example. 71 percent Kerala 25 out ofevery in wereliterate.5 0. is a Christian-majority District often thehighest had leveloffemale in N.Thereafter.5 1.0. it was nearlythree about 1.In India in the 1890s.and Nayarsuntil the 1920sand 1930swere weretracedthroughthemother.Cochin and Malabar.9 percent.5.6 .Kerala has roughly115 literate males forevery are 100 literate females. In Travancore. 1985 (Trivandrum:Government 463 . India. Janamma's story helps to explain some of thesestriking Janammawas a Nayarbycaste. was only Cochin.10. 1875-1981.1 15.6 6.7 2. 1975).5 5.3 1.9 54.4 4.9 Sources: Census ofIndia forrelevantyears.5# .13.18. theratiowas onlyabout 5 to 1.nationally.7 in It t Kanyakumari nowa separate (female literacy: percent 1961).6 timesgreater In timesgreater.6#10.Of womenover15years age. India as a whole. Women in Kerala. Notes: Excludes under girls * in state Travancore-Cochin wasformed 1949.: i) Tinnevelly literacy the in Madras Presidency. # 5.4 2. betweenmale and femaleratesof literacy The differences have always been much narrowerin Kerala than elsewhere.B.21.0 6. proportionof literate the Kerala women increased-steadily until 1911 and spectacularlybetween 1911and 1941.38.By thelatter year.7# .p. 1. 26 percent.9 36.65 out of every in hundredwomenand girlsin Kerala wereliterate. in India.9 SocialScience for Research.4 0.7 1.8 0. matrilineal-descentand inheritance not 60 Press.3 64.9 4.

it was legislated this and teenth century.6" matrilinealcaste-Hindus-notably Until the early twentieth century.9 9.and a husband visitedhis wife'shouse.Ot 24.0 34.9 23. system out ofexistence. Nayars-provided thereference group forKerala society.8 58.9#15.even undertheBritish. The Hindu. pp. 4.3 19.1 23.7 - Sources: Census ofIndia forrelevant years.8 24. Customrecognizedtheeldestmale in a Nayar as matrilinealjoint-family themanager. whichoften her brothers and sistersand her sisters'children.3 6.8 58. which included school-goingforgirls.9 24.6 74.8 29.4 9.1 33.0 .4 38. Beforetheestablishment of Britishrule.Even low castes.2 13.werenot thehighestcastein Kerala. well as hermaternalunclesand aunts.6 19.3 50. in 56.2 16.: Tinnevelly and Tanjore Districtsusually had the highest levels of male literacy theMadras Presidency.41.0 .1 11.5 46.38. p.4 17. 24 September1924. theyhad been soldiers.Pacific Affairs TABLE PERCENTAGE OF MALES LITERATE. ease thananywhere else in Marriagesweremade and endedwithfargreater India.7 49.2 20.0 21.48. given theopportunity.3 11. Their childrenlivedin themother's merely family. t Kanyakumariarea now a separatedistrict (male literacy: N.manyof them remainedlandownersand officials.outlines thedetails of matriliny and its decay. 464 .0 66.28. in thefather.6 . 62 243-56.B.30.6 10. Notes:#Excludes boys under5. 146:Madra Mail.By the end of the ninehad begun to disintegrate.4 .p.7 21.5 22.FOR 1875 1881 1891 1901 1911 1921 1931 1941 1951 1961 1971 1981 Travancore Cochin Malabar Dt KERALA Tinnevelly Tanjore Madras Psy TAMILNAD ALL-INDIA 11.But it providedthe soil in which femaleliteracy grew.1 .3 44. the castes. 10.8 16. but they accountedfor15-20percentof thepopulation. Nayar Dominance.0 . beginningin Travancorein the 1920s.9 10.8 13.9 . Nayar familiesin many parts of Kerala were matrilocal. Ibid.Kerala's largeChristian population (roughly percent 20 61 Jeffrey. wereeager to imitatematrilinealpractices.6 8.to be sure. Though themselves dividedinto "subconstituted largest"respectable"groupin Kerala.. as Janamma's going to school in the 1870s shows."together they did Matriliny among Nayarsin the nineteenth century not mean that womenruledthehousehold.3 39.However. as includedhermother.8 24.4 22. Nayars.44.1 22.7 22.6# 25. and women appear to have had a greatervoice in such decisions. 6 SELECTED AREAS 1875-1981.5 57. 23 December1941.62 When Westernstylesbegan to supplant those of caste-Hindusas the modelstoemulate.6 33.p.6) 20.2 percent 1961).1 8.0 15.matriliny meantwider freedomforwomen.55.1) 54 8* 27. * in Travancore-Cochinstatewas formed 1949.

140(V.thatuntil theearlytwentieth century.part 1. As earlyas 1869. having passed therequisiteexamination in 1871. 34 percentof Nayar women were literateand only 31 of percent SyrianChristianwomen. 1921. As Christians. Kerala.66 Nayar women appear.they with the new rulers. 1894. This seemsto be clear from the of example oftheemployment womenin salariedjobs in Kerala. Nagam Aiya). 9 (14 March 1871). SouthernRange."Consideringthedifficulty procuringfemalesfor such work" elsewhere. VII. part 65 Census of Travancore.MaryPoonen. p.vol.Travancore foundit necessary develop a schemeof maternity to leave forteachers in government schools. I.TGER. General Report.p.p. C ofI.whencomparedwiththenational average forfemaleliteracy(less than 2 percent).vol.vol. the ratio was 1004 1000males. 82. 67 Durbar Physician to theDewan.p. educate their childrento suit themfor jobs. nineteenth century The abilityof matrilinealwomen to move about independently promoted literacyby making its utilityand profitobvious.a time femalesforevery The Tamil Brahmin who wrote when the national ratio was 935:1000.people is employment intertwined. XXV. in fact. matrilinealcasteHindu womenexperienced freedom-and a larger greater proportion of themwere literate-than Christianwomen.however.67 earlyas 1898. p."a femalechild is prizedmorehighlythana male one. 7.68 1909thefirst In Malayali woman. VII. 3 May 1898. Monograph No. Cochin.both figureswere amazinglyhigh. As long as censuseshave been taken.How WomenMade Kerala Literate of the total) began to imitate European customs. Report. As late as 1921 in Travancore. part 1 A(i).64 Travancore'sfirst censusreportin 1875thoughtit important assertthat to among matrilineal castes. KrishnanNamboodiri).11 April 1981. 644. 33. 67. XIX. Economic and Political Weekly. The Changing Population ofKerala (New Delhi: Registrar-General. 1961. 82. forexample. TGER. havesoughtout salariedemployment. 1875. Yet.Indeed.the Travancore government was able to induce eight a youngNayarwomen to trainas midwives. Travancore. Education and are When literacy required forwork.women have outnumberedmen. This rosesteadilyto 1034:1000in 1981. 21 (1 June 1869) and IX. It needs to be emphasized. 66 TGG."65We can also infer connectionwithliteracy: the because womenhad greater freedom. 12975.Like the British. believed theyhad a special affinity Christiansin Kerala began to encourage femaleeducation. 2698 (KS). C ofI. 6 November1894.p. See also C of I.six teenagedNayar In to women asked Travancore's chief medical officerto train them as antiof smallpox vaccinators. was greatly he As surprised. 1968)(by K. 1921. there werefewer objectionsto theirschool-going.63 Matrilinyappears to be responsiblefora relatedaspect of Kerala that has long distinguishedit fromtherestof India. 1961. coursefourofthemcompleted. 68Dewanto Inspectorof Schools. 63 64 465 . In 1901.especially in Travancoreand Cochin. a C of I. it verysoon became clear in the changed economic conditionsof the late thatliterate women werean asset.

Even in the mentcontrasts strikingly 1970s. it was estimatedthat of Kerala one-thirdof theemployeesin the Secretariat the newlyformed statewerewomen. of Elliott. 76 Women in Kerala. by the 1930s. 108.vol. 14 Aug. "The Participationof Women in Education in the Third World. Sambasiva Rao. 20.Pacific Affairs medicine.p. 26 Feb. to In familiesare reluctant send theirgirlsto school. Reportp. 24 September1924.womenweredemandingspecial representation the Travancore legislature-as well as a separatesection in the Government in The Cochin census commissioner Press to trainwomen compositors.69 in Bythemid-1930s.M. quickly officials in Travancore lamented that "the great majorityof girls . 1957.p." in C. 16. that a few had begun to practise as lawyers. became a valued memberof her family.p.teachersand clerks"were women. p. Girls' School Education. 71 C of I. Problems of Women's Literacy(Mysore: Central Instituteof Indian Languages. The problemin for this instance is circular and worldwide: where women teachersare few.notas somethingofculturalvalue in itself. 466 . Women'sEducation in the Third World(Albany.Crown RepresentaReportforthefirst tive'sRecords.73 withwhichMalayali womensoughtliteracy-based The alacrity employwithconditionselsewherein India.70 1941 pointed out that "many doctors..eds. XIX. 73 The Hindu.000teachers 1985werewomen. 1909.75 contrast...72 By 1957. p.P. 1979). 58.76 Girls in Kerala wentto thelocal schools in pre-British times. as first woman in India to head a government department. Arnold Anderson.authors.and that Cochin supporteda "mixed club" in which men and women professionalswere A in own right. 1941. as a direct meansofsecuringemployment competingwithmenin theopen and 69 Malabar Herald.p. MaryJean Bowman and C. 4. 23 December 1941. 10. 9.7' woman engineerhad becomean irrigation members their in and surveyofficer Cochin by 1944." G. but regardtheir education. in of 74 SudharshanKumari. 72 Madras StatesFortnightly halfof October 1944."Problem ofMotivation WomenforLiteracy. was it fraught with apparentrisks:male teachers. 75 Desai.p.In 1924she becamethe wentto Britainto study SyrianChristian.Indeed. example. was: "'What do we do with education?'"74Not onlydid schoolingforgirlsappear tobringno benefits. "Their main question. The Hindu. 1985.a post she held until 1942.one of the major obstacles confronting female-literacy campaigns lay in lack of motivationamong women themselves. 17 October 1935..Malayali women sought wage-earning employment as soon as-even beforein werepreparedto offer and a woman teacher Kerala very governments it. 55. chiefmedical of officer Travancore. 70 The Hindu. Kelly and C. part 1. ed. Cochin.New York:StateUniversity New York Press. Madras Mall.p. 71. percent 58 in of Kerala's 185.R/l/29/2707(IOL). 1982)." according to one researcher.

tell-barefoot. 1933).'"82 In the last few years. Alteringdirectionslightlybut scarcelybreakingstride. highest and where people break with the culture of poverty . in 83 T. some groups may be moreconstrainedthan theirforebears werea hundredyearsago. United Nations.thinas bamboo. A Case Studyof SelectedIssues withReference to Kerala [1975] (Bombay: Orient Longman forDepartmentof Economic and Social Affairs. Mote.p. Sunset.W. . like other Indian women.We had our sequential prioritieswrong.I couldn't basketon herhead. 7.she clutched the handbill betweenher toes. 249."Indeed.G. Then.1982). theydo not enjoy anythinglike equality with men. Krishnan.pp. "is the basic per"7 sonal skill thatunderliesthewhole modernizing sequence." 77Could there have been any otherregionin India wheresuch a remark would have been even plausible in 1933?78 LESSONS ABOUT LITERACY? Anotherwoman entersthisstory fromthedirectionof theConnemara Marketin Trivandrum:a fisherwoman-Hindu or Christian. 5. Batsford. empty to and she was returning hervillage on thecoastafter day's selling.she benther knee and passed the notice into her hand.p.p.p. See also Poverty. reading intently. Today. 31 March 1982."assertedDaniel Lerner thirty yearsago."China's Past in theStudy ofChina Today-Some Commentson theRecent Workof Richard Solomon.8' John Kenneth Galbraith spelled out this feelingwhen he reflected the need to overon come the"cultureofpoverty" real before economicdevelopment begin: can "You can assess theprogressive partsofIndia bythosewheretheliteracy is literacythat comes first. 110. Erik Eckholm. West. 80 E.Down to Earth:Environment and Human Needs (London: Pluto Press. Indeed. 41-45. [I]t's 467 . 1977). 65-66.pp. no.pp. in interviewed DevelopmentForum (June 1980). 1975). 64. XXII. she hurriedon down thehill. 81 F. Indeed.p. .N. she spottedon the road a handbill advertising political meeting. 1 (November 1972).As she a bustled down Mahatma Gandhi Road.Report (Trivandrum:Government Press.BBC-TV's "Global Report"in 1983devoteda programto thefallingbirthratein Kerala. a smelly. Unemployment and DevelopmentPolicy.1958).Education and theIndustrialRevolution (London: B. 82 Interview India Today.'"80 Yet few doubt that literacychanges people." JournalofAsian Studies. 78 We must not overemphasize theopportunitiesforwomen in Kerala.How WomenMade Kerala Literate markets. Withoutsettingdown herbasket. mostwould stress about theidea that"educationis thekeytoeconomic "growingskepticism" growth. Few scholars today would put so much faith in the capacity of literacyto produce "modernization"or "economic development.' The model suggests of 77Travancore Education ReformsCommittee. "Literacy. We we thoughtwe could startwith capital investment. 79Daniel Lerner. in some ways.vol. past the Victoria Jubilee Town a Hall.the so-called "Kerala model" has attractedthe '83 of attention students Third World"development. 96-97. should have started in withinvestment education.T.The Passing of Traditional Society(New York: Free Press.

forexample.. "therewas a in feeling"in therestof India that"industries Kerala" faced"a day-inand day-outseriesof strikes. Donald Zagoria concludedthat"thecombinationoflandlessness and literacyis the major predictorof communist voting strength"in Leslie Brown.'"87 To make a tightconnectionbetweenliteracy. studying the Communist Manifesto. 122.you are a different person fromsomeone who asks. 88 Donald S. Cochrane. p.whichwill in turnreduceinfant mortality and lead to a fallingbirth rate.'"90 Today. for example. Malayalis are notorious in India fortheirindividualism.88In the 1940s.p. North Carolina: of University NorthCarolina Press. Giri told an audience in Trivandrum in 1960. 18 July1960.PacificAffairs thata highlypoliticizedpopulation can force measureofland reform a and in improvements public health. Three Wlorlds: One Word(London: Rex Collings. 328. was amazed tosee. The Transformation of Virginia. Triste Tropique. 90Claude Levi-Strauss. "all overthedeck" ofa Travancoreferry boat. a farhigherproportion Malayalis believe theyhave rights-and attemptto assertthem-than in the largelyilliterateKerala of thepast.p. "What do we do with education?" RhysIsaac.p. "working evidenceforLevi-Strauss'sassertionthat"the primary function written of of communicationis tofacilitate slavery. thehistorianofeighteenth-century America. p. Zagoria. XIII (1972).The of difficulty dealing with themis a national commonplace." Archiveseuropeennesde sociologie. ."89 Kerala offerslittle 468 .' "86 The remark particularly suggestive relation to Kerala. The Kerala example to gives us theopportunity compare theactions of threedifferent governmentsoperatingin a singleculturalregionovermorethana hundredyears. high femaleliteracy usually correis and a declining birth rate. 393.1740-90 (Chapel Hill.thenewlyarrivedEnglish missionary.85 you take the If lated with lower fertility handbill betweenyourtoesand readit on thewayback to yourvillage."84In the Kerala example. "A Note on Landlessness. vol. 16. 87 The Hindu. 84 85 class folk . "Education and Fertility: Expanded Examination of the Evidence.V.p. 1976). 9. Throughout theworld. ." in Kellyand Elliott. Literacyand AgrarianCommunism in India.Doreen Weightman(London: Penguin. trans.eds. 1981). all this happens withouteitheran industrialor a political revolution. an Susan H. Aftera detailed statisticalanalysis.contendsthat regularreadingproduced"modes ofsilentthought"and "thuswas engenis in dered'individualism. As thelabour leader V. 329.thusrelieving"the gripofextreme deprivation. 86 Rhys Isaac. India.Literacyseems to be crucial to theprocess. 42. and a strongCommunistmovement impossible. Women'sEducation. the suggestions are everywhere. 1982). This leads me to the second general point thatI wished this essay to raise: therelativeinfluenceof government activity and cultural predilection in determiningsocial or political behaviour. 89 Leslie Brown. Yet. militantassertionof the is individual rights.Down. p. Eckholm.

Tomlinson.""9 As many scholars in the 1980s incline increasinglytowards "cultural" explanations of human activity-both behaviourism often orthodoxMarxismand head-counting havingfailedto answerthequestions theyhave confronted-India's old unitsof adminisa tration they accumulated)offer fruitful (and thevastquantitiesofrecords field. be sure. 93 For example. where an unfamiliarsystemof English education was attemptedin the 1870s.. "BritishversusPrincelyLegacies and the Political Integration of Gujarat.Governments. Perhaps this attemptto explain literacyin Kerala illustratesthe potential of studies comparing princely states and contiguous British in the The example of literacy Kerala also suggeststheneed to modify in and emphasissometimes placed on governments institutions explaining in The notion thatgovernments social and political events modernIndia. political boundariescriss-cross for It also providesan opportunity comparisons thatmay "illuminate a significanttheoreticalissue. no.but rarely. Low. XVI. influencedtheirsubjects.local kindin whichgirlsparticipated. see B. 2 (April 1982). Scholars of easternEurope have long recognizedthat the way cultures providesmorethanj usta problem.First.directed An educational surveyin Gujarat in the 1970s supports the idea that withschoolingamong influential social groupsexplains accelfamiliarity eration in literacy. See also Gray's "Conclusion.The authorconcludes thatthe"tradition going in foreducaon tion" was "the singlemostpowerfulinfluence literacy rates"forall the districts.93 ways-is initiateand people respond-often. 13. Wood.in unpredictable too tidyand simple.personsin thosegroups in Travancorewho wereaccustomed to schooling theirchildrencontinuedto do so. Malayalis were culturally attunedto schoolingofa particular. 1977). Moreover. 25-42. hope.Political Cultureand Political Change in CommunistStates. The accelerationof literacyin Kerala resultedfirst of the from exploitationofexistingculturalstrengths: relativefreedom the women and the popular.abruptinnovationsin Cochin's schools led to a temporary fall in the numbersof school-goers and in to I literacy. 340. suspect..65-100. in people avoided it." especiallyp. In Cochin. themdown paths theywerenot alreadyinclined to go.once governmentsbegin to spend more money on of education. WhentheTravancoregovernment providedliteracy-oriented recognizbut able schools. 469 .vol.vol. 1 (November1984). EdwardS.How WomenMade Kerala Literate it two This comparative exercise. 92 See John R. however.p. the 1890s.eds.vol."Introduction. III. no. 253. Haynes." ArchieBrownand JackGray. demonstrates things. to be sure.2nd edition(New York: Holmes and Meier. shows I that the pre-1947patchworkof princelyand BritishIndia the potential in offersto those who would tryto explain cause-and-effect complex societies. XLIV.pp." JournalofAsian Studies. review of D.A. Congress and the Raj (London: Heinemann. old-styleschools. "ComparativeIndustrialDevelopmentin 19thand 20th-Century India: AlwarState and Gurgaon District. ed.in Modern Asian Studies. 2 (December 1980).R.pp. no."South Asia (New Series).p.1979).92 91ArchieBrown.

Cochin's thattheeducation Dewan had littledoubt.S. ShanmllUkham Chettyto T.96 variationsin timing. Government Press. society-seems a basic requirement a successfulliteracy In Kerala. India.whosegovernment the theneweducationsystem the yearsbefore First slowlybegan to concede such demandsin thetwenty World War. Ernakulam). 95C of I."The spreadofeducation does notdepend primarily themultiare plication ofschools. 470 .and. Christian mission schools had been providing eventuanotheravenue forlow-casteeducation. Though the contrastsbetween Travancore. In of responseto thedemands of Malabar's people. there largesectionsof thepopulation who remainignorant. Narayana Iyer. government approval and laterapplyingforgrants. Cochin (Kerala StateArchives.ifnotconceded. but more suddenly and disrupwhich had reacheda plateau in the 1890s figures.. Repoit.increasedsharplyfrom the 1910s as governments opened the schools to most social groups and spent increasing sums on education. 51.Cochin's literacy based on high-casteand Christianschool-going. t of 1981). 1928 (Trivandrum: Eniqiry Com7mittee.afterthe constitutional as reforms 1919.FactorsExplaininigValiations in LiteracyRates inl Rural Aieas: A Case . produced dissatisfaction. the question was: who was leading moreand moreMalayalis tosend whom?Was government policy tempting unable to keep up witha deep and childrento school? Or was government constantdemand to multiply the numberof schools? In 1937.Maharajah Sayajirao University. in is The role ofgovernments producingKerala's high levelsofliteracy unquestionable. The Cochin government ally followed the Travancore example."95 By the 1910sand 1920sin Kerala. 1928). Ecoiomic. . Meanwhile. 16 R. More important observed on which thatactivity arose. p. lowercasteshad always regardedschool-goingas a markof status. vol.K. 9 Report of the Unhemiiployient Trazmancore.Study Guijarat of (Baroda: Departmiien Economics.94 planners. is thefactthatgovernwas theculturalbase mentactivity alone was notenough.p.Their tiny. Dewan's 14 Letters.p. 91Maya Shah. the 1920svirtually by Cochin. and Malabar illustrate had come to regardeducationas "thedoor to sectionofKerala society every "9 a new earthand a new heaven.elites began to demand opportunitiesin from 1880sin Travancore.but growing. I. But equally clear. tively. As theIndian census commissioner on in 1901. its DistrictBoard and local of schools in the built thelargestsystem district educational entrepreneurs Madras Presidency. 1901.Secretary.it seems to me. particularlycriticizedthe practiceof citizenssettingup schools without which.morefundswereavailable in Malabar District well.howevermanyschools theremay be.theestablishment a primary systemthatcarriesprestige-that attractsthe looked-up-to groups in a of program. 28. He told his financedepartment He of budgetmuststop growing(it exceeded18percent totalexpenditure). part 1. 165. Similarly. April 1937.Pacific Affairs school For of villages in thestudy.

A Portrait Population (New Delhi: Census of India.thecensuscommissioners Travancore debated the meritsof the literacystatistics compiled in 1921. Kerala's culturegave womena remarkable independence.part 1.Report. In 1931and 1941. and womenhave made Kerala remarkably literate. and the 1951commissioner has concluded that "a verystiff interpretation been given to literacyin 1931. p. 1931.C. 99S. And the fisherwoman with the Hindu or lower-status handbill was eithera lower-caste Christian." The debate illustrates problemswith thefigures.for in example. Kerala.How WomenMade Kerala Literate The threewomen who have been so much in mythoughtssince I first with thequestion of what made Kerala literate began to wrestle probably social groups. 1951.had introduced inaccuracy applying too rigida by definition. XIII.thecriterion beingrecorded as "literate"from1911 onwardswas theabilityto "writea simpleletter and in read theanswerto it. The 1931 commissionerthoughtthey werewrong-far too high.part 1. sionerthoughtthey who instructed to enumerators recordpeople as literateonly if theyhad fouryearsof schooling.'00This may account for the low percentagesin Travancore and Cochin in 1875: the unwillingnessof high-caste to enumerators ask lowcaste people if theywereliterate-or believe themif theysaid theywere. 100 K. Travancore. When thisis done. was a Nayar. of 93-4.Yet all read.p. The 1941 and 1951 censuses confirmedTravancore's and Cochin's literacy ratesas thehighestin India.of course. 3rd edition (New Delhi: Officeof the RegistrarGeneral.Report.Comparisons over time thus becomedifficult and dangerous. Srivastava.though sometimesliteracytables eliminate childrenundertenor fiveyearsofage.vol.Indian Census in Perspective.p.Anygovernment that failed to provide the opportunitieswould do so at its peril."99Before1911. 1911.all no doubt had been to school and all undoubtedly expectedtheir to childrenand grandchildren go to school and learn to read. thepercen98C of I. 272. 154. including children. 78. as Mostofthefigures thispaper areexpressed percentages thetotal in of population. vol. 51.p. The woman with the newspaper came fromthreedifferent on thatrainymorningnorthof Ernakulam was probablya SyrianChristian. 1983). Janamma. Cochin. vol.C ofI. XXV. part1. Report.98 the for Except forthe 1931Travancorecensus.Definitions changedfrom census one to another. NOTE: THE DEFINITION OF LITERACY IN THE CENSUSES Indian censusdata are notorious. C of I. Narayanan.literacy thecensusdependedon the claims people made to the enumeratorand his willingness to believe them. Report. The 1941commiswereabout right. Travancore. 471 . 281. C of I.pp. part 1. XXVIII. 1973). Travancore-Cochin.categorieswere added or eliminated. XVIII.He argued thathis 1931predecessor.p. wherethe various criteriaare compared. 1941. vol.

102 Narayanan.'0' Such variationsrepresent for further difficulty anyone using census data. TravancoreSee thetotalpopulation throughout twentieth Cochin. C ofI. La Trobe University.vol.PacificAffairs a tage of literatesnaturallyappears higher.p.Treatedwithcaution. Australia. part 1-A. 15. pp. 1951. 93-4.May 1987 101Childrenundertenin Travancoreand Cochin represented of between and 30 percent 25 the century.Report.theimportant pointsconcernnot so much theprecision ofeach individualdecade'spercentages broad trends but overtimeand different administrative areas.Kerala.'02 For mypurposes. XIII. A Portrait. 472 . comparisonsbetween theliteracy statistics be made to tell significant can and reliable stories.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful