The Kunnenkeril family was an old established one in Kerala, going back to the sixteenth century. Originally belonging to the Syrian Christian faith, its members became Anglicans and, in 1888, Kunnenkeril Koratha was ordained priest in the Anglican Church. Koratha worked hard at his ecclesiastical duties in order to give his children a good education. His grandson, Kuruvila Jacob, was born on 3 August 1904, inheriting the sound values of committed work and belief in a solid education.
Kuruvila was the fourth of Kunnenkeril Jacob's eight children. He had an idyllic childhood, growing up in the small village of Aymanam on the banks of the river Meenachil. Memories of the quiet, pastoral life, spent in beautiful natural surroundings, remained with him all his life.
Since his father's job as a judge entailed frequent transfers, Kuruvila and his siblings changed school several times. He was thus educated at Kottayam, Trivandrum, Nagercoil, and Parur. In all his schools, the young boy excelled in sports and did reasonably well in his studies, too.
He caught the eye of some of his more discerning teachers who recognised Kuruvila's potential and encouraged him. These were early lessons in dealing with students as was the repugnance of unfair methods of punishment meted out by other teachers that formed the foundation of the future educator.
After his Intermediate course at CMS College, Kottayam, Kuruvila Jacob went on to Madras Christian College (MCC) in Madras, for his graduate degree in physics and chemistry. As at school, he took active part in all the sports activities. He stayed on at MCC as a demonstrator and also worked as part-time secretary at the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA).
But soon he had to decide what he wanted to do with his life. Kuruvila had always admired and respected his teachers and had been greatly influenced by some of them. He realised the important role a good teacher played in a child's life and wanted to be one such. He set about finding out where he could be best trained and discovered that Leeds University in England offered one of the best programmes.
He succeeded in convincing his father that teaching was to be his profession and to agree to pay the expenses involved. Kuruvila married Grace Mathai in August 1929, just before he left for England. It was difficult to leave his young wife behind, but she had her studies to complete too.