A 'Literate' is any person who is able to read and write on his own and 'Literacy' is the ability to read and write or is the quality of being literate.

Kerala with a literacy rate of 90.90%, stands first among other Indian states. Recognizing the need for a literate population and provision of elementary education as a crucial input for nation building, the state government with the backing of the central government, launched a number of plans and programmes over the past years to facilitate the provision of free and compulsory education with satisfactory quality to all children at least up to the age of 14 years. 'Akshara Keralam' Project introduced in the early 1990s was one such project initiated with the aim of bringing the the maximum number of illiterates to schools and other study centres. This project was implemented in different phases throughout the state. Apart from this, a number ofgovernment organizations and voluntary associations under various schemes and services, conduct classes ( mainly evening classes ) for the illiterate adults. Such classes are held throughout the rural and backward areas of the state where educational institutions were absent in the yesteryears or for those who were unable attain elementary education in their childhood or later. The literacy rate in the urban areas is slightly greater than in the rural areas. As per the norms of National Literacy Mission, a literacy rate above 90 % shall be treated as complete literacy. On this basis, Kerala was declared a, 'Fully Literate State', on April 18th, 1991.

Kerala- Literacy Rate*
Total Rural Urban
Persons 90.9 90.1 93.4
Males 94.2 93.5 96.1
Females 87.7 86.8 90.9

Like men, women in Kerala also hold a high literacy rate -87.7 %, which is higher than any other state in India. As a result women in Kerala enjoy a social status which is unattainable by the women folks in other parts of the country. Of the total working class (Main and Marginal) of Kerala, which is 32 % of the total population, 15.3 % are women.

The literacy rate of the three communities shows that Christians are more literate than Hindus and Muslims. The literacy percentage of these communities are: Hindus (male - 90.2 and female - 86.7 per cent), Muslims (male - 89.4 and female - 85.5 per cent) and Christians (male - 94.8 and female - 93.5 per cent).

Compared to other states in India, living standard of Keralites is high. Obviously, this is attributed to the high literacy rate and the educational standard of the people. Kerala, once home to many social evils is now absolutely relieved of them.

Apart from providing general education, Govt. of Kerala has taken initiatives to provide computer education to all students. This programme is being implemented at all schools and colleges throughout the state.

Important Dates and Events in Kerala's Literacy Mission

  • June 1989 - Kottayam Municipal Town is the first Fully Literate municipal town in India
  • February 1990- Ernakulam District is the first Fully Literate district in India
  • 1991 - Launch of 'Akshara Keralam' project
  • 1991 - Kerala's Literacy rate reaches 93.64 %
  • 1991, April 18 - Kerala declared a Fully Literate State.