As the conventional process of industrialisation was unlikely to become the route to the long-term development of Kerala, the growth of a knowledge economy is critical for the State’s overall socio-economic development, according to K.P. Kannan, Chairman of the Laurie Baker Centre for Habitat Studies, and former Director of the Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram.

He was delivering the Dr. P.K. Gopalakrishnan Memorial Lecture held as part of the 24th Kerala Science Congress at the Rubber Research Institute of India on Sunday.

Dr. Kannan pointed out that there was a prevailing mismatch between the individual decision making and the collective objective of a society or an economy that is still developing. This scenario is becoming increasingly visible.

He said that a major section of students were being compelled in joining the favoured streams of engineering and medicine. This trend has resulted in a scenario in which the students who are attracted to the other fields are forced to pursue a line of education that does not spur their ambitions.

“The pass out rate in the engineering system has fallen to 40 per cent, i.e., only 40 out of every 100 students in the State make it beyond the final year examinations. For those hailing from socially-deprived sections, this rate is 20 per cent. These students do not obtain their degrees, but will have gone through the technical education. This is an instance of how students would neither attain the goals they had aspired neither those that were forced upon them. Instead, they would have done well had they pursued fields of interest.

This could lead to social pathologies by bringing about a sense of frustration in them and ultimately leading such persons to crime syndicates, taking up drugs and other kinds of anti- social activities,” he said.

He added that the State was yet to witness qualitative transformation, despite having undergone a quantitative transformation has taken place, Dr. Kannan also said that it was important for the State to overcome the mediocrity in standards that has set in, in terms of conducting examinations, recruitment of teachers, and various other aspects that can be brought about only through public policies. The role of the teachers’ organisations in the State and a visionary political leadership was also immense in this regard.

He also said that the society had undergone various remarkable transformations in recent times. “The first is the one witnessed in the demography of the State. Contrary to the system that had prevailed earlier, 30 per cent of the households in the State either have only one child, or wish to have only one. “

The second remarkable transformation is that the State is no longer an agrarian economy. A good proportion of the State’s income comes from sectors other than agriculture and also a majority of the working population is engaged in non-agricultural activities. The per centage of the population that are involved in agricultural activities has gone down to 30. We are also no longer dependent on the vagaries of the nature for generating the flow of income.

According to the 2011 Census, nearly 48 per cent of the population in Kerala now live in urban areas. At the same time, it should be noted that the difference between rural and urban in Kerala is less sharp that in other parts of India. Nevertheless, to be categorised as urban, one has to go through various parameters in the census. This increase in the urban population of the State is the third transformation.

He said that Kerala is now at the doorsteps of a fourth transformation that pertains to the field of education. This referred to the successful completion of the aim of getting all children to school and reaching them up to the 10th grade which is, by no means, a small achievement considering the National record. Even by Kerala's historical standards, this was unthinkable when the state was formed, he said.

All these transformations have come at a critical time in its development story which is positive in many senses but raises several concerns in terms of inequality, environment and other aspects.

Kerala Forest Research Institute Director K.V. Sankaran, Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE) Joint Director R. Prakashkumar, and KSCSTE Scientific Officer Binuja Thomas also spoke on the occasion.

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