Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Food for thought: Kerala libraries stick to curriculum

A century after the first library in Kerala, the library movement in the state gathered momentum, sowing radical ideas in the minds of people across the state.

Today, there are over 6,600 Gram Panchayat libraries in villages across Kerala.

The purpose of reading, nowadays, has become more need based than for any kind of intellectual stimulation.

For students at the Government Boys School at Thiruvananthapuram, days begin and end with endless tuitions.

In their intensely competitive world, reading is strictly restricted to their curriculum. Everything else is a distraction and a waste of time from them.

"I hardly get time to study even for entrance exams. After schools and tuitions when we reach home it is 8 pm (IST). We hardly get time to read anything else," said Vishnu, a 12th standard student.

"There is lot of pressure on us. We get it out by playing computer games," said Fahad, another student.

Quest for marks

Teachers say this is a result of the quest for maximum marks with minimum knowledge.

It's a generation with a low level of interest in humanities subjects, like literature, political science and history.

Subjects that not only give broader perspective but also make for well-rounded individuals.

At a 60-year-old Gram Panchayat library in Perunkavu village, 15 km from Thiruvanthapuram, it's clear that youngsters here are as disinterested in libraries as their counterparts in the city.

It is a cause for concern in a state that has set up and funded a unique and vast network of 6,600 libraries.

Relevant to the state

Experts say the libraries contributed to Kerala achieving the highest literacy rate in the country.

"We have 850 members. On the occasion of the 60th anniversary, we have started a campaign to rope in more members. Somewhere down the line the importance of libraries is getting reduced. We want to make people aware of the library's relevance," said Santosh, a former librarian.

This trend among young people has politicians also worried.

In a first for the country, former Education Minister E T Mohammed Basheer had introduced the concept of "Grow up by Reading" to encourage reading habits.

The scheme also emphasised the modernisation of school libraries and the introduction of a library period in the school timetable.

However post-elections, the project seems to have lost its impetus.

Be it politics, culture or economics, the average Malayalee is a well-informed person, thanks to the neighbourhood library.

However, the youth today are marching to a different tune. The demands made by their career-oriented education, leaves them with little time to read anything else.


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