DUBAI// Indian expatriates who dropped out of education in their home country can soon earn the equivalent of a Grade 10 school certificate under a pilot government literacy programme being launched in the UAE.
The Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority (KSLMA) will roll out a 10-month course from November.
"There are many Keralites working in the Arabian Gulf who dropped out of school because of socio-economic reasons," said Professor Alassan Kutty, the director of KSLMA. "We would like to give an opportunity for them to study again."
Since its inception in 1998, KSLMA has been regularly organising adult education programmes and is credited with ensuring the state enjoys the highest literacy rates in India, at 93.91 per cent.
The authority hopes to replicate this success in the Emirates and Qatar, where the programme will be simultaneously launched.
It will target white and blue-collar expatriates, including domestic helpers, cooks, drivers, low-income workers in companies, and cafeteria and supermarket staff.
"There are many people who haven't completed matriculation but have good jobs in the [Arabian] Gulf because of their experience in the field. There are many parents who have children in schools in the UAE but are not educated themselves," said Mr Kutty. Grade 10 study is also known as matriculation in India.
Expats who wish to enrol should have completed their education up to Grade 7 and be older than 17.
"We are not expecting thousands, but want people who have a need to study or have long had an inner calling to complete their education," said Mr Kutty.
The authority hopes to conduct weekly classes for adult learners, who will study nine subjects including maths, science, languages and information technology. They will be required to attend 185 hours of classes to complete the course.
At the end of the programme there will be an examination and successful students will be awarded a 10th equivalency certificate, or secondary school leaving certificate.
KSLMA has proposed similar Grade 12 equivalency courses, which is under consideration by the Indian government.
About 10 Indian schools in the UAE that offer the Kerala state curriculum have sent proposals to KSLMA to be selected as centres for weekly classes and exams.
Expats can register from September 20 to October 5 at these schools. Many parents of students are expected to enrol.
Mr Kutty said they were prepared to establish learning centres at labour camps and organise classes on weekends after working hours.
"If companies are willing, we can conduct classes in their centres ... it is also up to their [labourers'] convenience and need. Many are maids and work seven days a week. We can't compel them to attend."
Studies will initially be in Malayalam. In October, KSLMA will send a delegation to train teachers and other volunteers willing to coach adult learners.
The Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre, a UAE-based charity, has expressed its willingness to organise classes across the country.
"We have proposed two to four classes a week," said TP Mahamood, treasurer of the organisation's Dubai chapter. "There have been lot of enquiries from Keralites. But we have to do classes according to their convenience. They have to find time to come."
The charity has proposed dropping the course's Dh750 fee, which could prove to be too expensive for low-earning workers.
"We have proposed a waiver of the fee depending on the person's salary," Mr Mahamood said. "It will help people progress in their careers and increase their qualification. It could also make them eligible for higher studies."