Kerala with over 90% literacy ranks as India's most literate state. It spends more on education than any other state, in fact more than many other countries. Kerala standards are impressive in terms of years of schooling, number of educational institutions, enrolment in higher education and results. Education has always been important in Kerala and is seen as a means to acquiring dignified behaviour, cultural traits and respect.

In the early days Buddhists and Jains developed educational institutions called salais, and these continued after the conversion to Hinduism. But with the coming in of the caste system education became the privilege of the upper sections of society. Things began to change in the latter part of the 19th century when the need arose for a well-trained government work force. Christian missionaries began to establish schools for lower caste people.

During this time, with more state involvement, education became free and compulsory for children up to the age of 10. Private organisations continued and even today a great part of school and college education is privately administered. A university was established in Travancore in 1937, which after the formation of Kerala became the University of Kerala in 1956. Since then six more universities have been established.