Education in the islands in earlier periods was confined to the teaching of Quran in schools attached to the mosques. In these schools called Madrassas, the Malayalam language was also taught in Arabic scripts. Only few could read and write and neither their isolated position nor any of their avocations made much call for education.
In the earlier years of British administration, the people were considered to be too backward to realize the value of modern education and no serious attempts were made to start schools in the islands till the latter half of the 19th century.
The question of providing education to the people of Amindivi islands, which came under the British government as early as 1799, was taken up only in 1871. Several measures taken up thereafter did not bring in the desired results. The alternate proposal was the introduction of the modified result grants system, the examination being conducted and grants awarded by the Monegar subject to occasional review by the European officer visiting the islands. This system, which continued for some years, had to be abandoned. As indigenous schools were showing signs of improvement and progress, it was felt that the best way to achieve progress in education was to encourage these indigenous institutions especially because the people were conservative and they viewed with suspicion the introduction of modern education. In 1888, the matter was taken up by Mir Shujaat Ali Khan the Inspecting Officer. In order to mitigate the suspicion of the people he suggested a system of combining secular education with religious education. According to this system specially trained teachers were attached to mosque schools to impart secular education. Instruction was to be given in Malayalam or Canarese language but Arabic script was to be used. An islander from Amini by name Khadri Haji was accordingly sent to the mainland for undergoing teachers’ training at the Calicut Norman school. On his return he set up a small school at Amini. In 1895 he was supplied with elementary Malayalam readers, in which each lesson was written both in Malayalam and Arabic scripts. A Mappila teacher from Kasargod was sent to Amini in 1904 to start a government school, and the first government school was opened at Amini on 15th January in the same year. The classes were full during the monsoon season, but during the fair season one third of the boys were engaged in Odams. In the morning, the children had to attend the mosque schools and so the government school functioned from 12 Noon to 4 p.m. The only subjects taught were languages and Arithmetic. In 1905 one Puthiyaillam Koyakidavu Koya of Kalpeni was sent to Basel German Mission Primary School, Calicut to pursue higher education.
In 1912 the government decided to introduce the payment of Results grants to the schoolmasters at the rates allowed in Malabar islands. There has been a steady improvement in education since then. In 1911 an elementary school was opened in Kiltan at the request of the people and in 1925 a similar school was opened at Kadmat. A temporary school was sanctioned to Chetlat in 1927. The scheme of scholarships was instituted in 1933. Under the new scheme three scholarships of a monthly value of Rs. 5 each was instituted for study in the mainland in standard V to VIII. The second measure of imparting religious education in the schools was first introduced in Kalpeni in 1938, at the instance of the people. A new teacher was appointed to teach Quran and half the coast was met by the government and the other half by people’s contribution. This attracted a good number of children attending classes conducted by Mukries to government schools.
At the time of independence, there were 9 primary schools in Lakshadweep one in each inhabited island except Bitra. Higher education at mainland had not been very attractive to the islanders till recently. Kirakkada Syedmohammedkoya of Andrott who was graduated in 1942 became the first graduate from Lakshadweep. Shri. Syedmohammedkoya later became the Collector cum Development Commissioner of the territory.
Though various steps were taken immediately after the independence like supply of books, midday meals, award of scholarship etc. to improve the standard of education, not much progress could be achieved till 1956. Students studying at Calicut were provided free hostel accommodation at the Harijan Hostel. After the reorganization of states in 1956, this was made an exclusive hostel for island students and functioned at Elathur near Calicut till 1963. Today there are three hostels attached to senior secondary schools one each in Andrott, Kadmat and Kavaratti. All these measures led to the rapid increase in the number of graduates and technical personnel in the islands. The 1971 census revealed that there were 213 degree holders and technical personnel in Lakshadweep.
The islands have been by leaps and bounds since independence. In 1951 the literacy percentage was 15.23 and now it is 87.52 % occupying the third position in the country. Up to 1956 there was only one graduate. Now there are about 5200 matriculates, more than 350 graduates, 70 postgraduates, 120 Engineers, 95 doctors and scores of students studying in other disciplines. Now all children of school going age have access to schools and out of the total student population 47% are girls.
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