Literacy in India


Literacy in India

Literacy in India is an indispensable means for effective social and economic participation, contributing to human development and poverty reduction, says UNESCO. [http://portal.unesco.org/education/en/ev.php-URL_ID=40338&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html] The Right to Education is a fundamental human right. [http://www.portal.unesco.org/education/en/ev.php-URL_ID=9019&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html] UNESCO aims at education for all by 2015. [http://www.portal.unesco.org/education/en/ev.php-URL_ID=42332&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html] India is one of the countries (along with the Arab states and sub-Saharan Africa) where the literacy levels are still below the threshold level of 75% but gigantic efforts are on to achieve that level. More than three fourths of the country’s male population and above half of the female population is literate. The thrust forward for achieving at least the threshold level of literacy represents the largest ever civil and military mobilization in the country. [Stated in the National Literacy Mission website [http://nlm.nic.in] ] __NOEDITSECTION__ The table below shows the adult and youth literacy rates for India and some of the neighbouring countries in 2002. [ "Economic Survey 2004-05", Economic Division, Ministry of Finance, Government of India, quoting UNDP Human Development Report 2004. ]

Adult literacy rate is for the age group 15 years and above. Youth literacy rate is for the age group 15-24 years. The youth literacy rate for India relates to 2001.

What constitutes literacy

Literacy as defined by UNESCO is given below. [ Please see section on UNESCO in the National Literacy Mission Website [http://nlm.nic.in] ] : 1. A literate person is one who can with understanding both read and write a short simple statement relevant to his everyday life. :2. Literacy is not the simple reading of a word or a set of associated symbols and sounds, but an act of critical understanding of men's situation in the world. :3. Literacy is not an end in itself but a means of personal liberation and development and extending individuals educational efforts involving overall inter-disciplinary responses to concrete problems :4. A literate person is one who has acquired all the essential knowledge and skills which enable him to engage in all those activities in which literacy is required for effective functioning in his group and community and whose attaining in reading, writing and numeracy make it possible to use these skills towards his own and his community's development. The National Literacy Mission defines literacy as acquiring the skills of reading, writing and arithmetic and the ability to apply them to one's day-to-day life. The achievement of functional literacy implies:
* Self-reliance in 3 R's
* Becoming aware of the causes of deprivation and moving towards amelioration of their condition by participating in the process of development
* Acquiring skills to improve their economic status and general well being
* Imbibing values of national integration, conservation of environment, women's equality, observance of small family norms, etc. The working definition of literacy in the Indian census since 1991 is as follows: [Preventive and social medicine by K. Park, 19th edition(2007), M/s Banarsidas Bhanot, Jabalpur, India]
* "Literacy rate":The total percentage of the population of an area at a particular time aged seven years or above who can read and write with understanding. Here the denominator is the population aged seven years or more.
* "Crude literacy rate":The total percentage of the people of an area at a particular time aged seven years or above who can read and write with understanding, taking the total population of the area (including below seven years of age) as the denominator.

Growth of literacy

During the British period, progress of education was rather tardy. Between 1881-82 and 1946-47, the number of primary schools grew from 82,916 to 134,866 and the number of students grew from 2,061,541 to 10,525,943. Literacy rates in British India rose from 3.2 per cent in 1881 to 7.2 per cent in 1931 and 12.2 per cent in 1947. [ "A Students’ History of Education in India 1800-1973" by J.P.Naik and Syed Nurullah ] In 2000-01, there were 60,840 pre-primary and pre-basic schools, and 664,041 primary and junior basic schools. [ "Statistical Pocket Book India 2003". ] Total enrolment at the primary level has increased from 19,200,000 in 1950-51 to 109,800,000 in 2001-02. [ "India 2005" published by Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.] The number of high schools in 2000-01 was higher than the number of primary schools at the time of independence. [ 1947 data is available in "A Students’ History of Education in India 1800-1973", the data for 2001 is available in Statistical Pocket Book India 2003.]

The provision of universal and compulsory education for all children in the age group of 6-14 was a cherished national ideal and had been given overriding priority by incorporation as a Directive Policy in Article 45 of the Constitution, but it is still to be achieved more than half a century since the Constitution was adopted. Parliament has passed the Constitution 86th Amendment Act, 2002, to make elementary education a Fundamental Right for children in the age group of 6-14 years. [ "India 2005" ] In order to provide more funds for education, an education cess of 2 per cent has been imposed on all direct and indirect central taxes through the Finance (No. 2) Act, 2004. [ "Economic Survey 2004-05".]

Since independence, the literacy rate grew from 18.33 per cent in 1951, to 28.30 per cent in 1961, 34.45 per cent in 1971, 43.57 per cent in 1981, 52.21 per cent in 1991, and 64.84per cent in 2001. [http://indiabudget.nic.in/es2001-02/chapt2002/chap106.pdf] During the same period, the population grew from 361 million to 1,028 million.

Literacy rates

The bar chart below shows the position of different states concerning literacy in 2001. [Data from "India 2005" ]
Kerala is at one end of the table and Bihar at the other. An analysis of important social indicators highlights the social differences in the two states. Literacy rate (2001) in Kerala was 90.86 per cent against 47.00 per cent in Bihar. Life expectancy at birth (2001-2006) is 71.61 for males and 75 for females in Kerala. In Bihar, it is 65.66 for males and 64.79 for females. Infant mortality (per 1,000 live births, 2002 provisional data) was only 10 in Kerala against 61 in Bihar. Birth rate (per 1,000, provisional) is 16.9 in Kerala against 30.9 in Bihar. Death rate (per 1,000, provisional) is 6.4 in Kerala against 7.9 in Bihar. The differences clearly indicate that literacy is the key to improvement in quality of life. [ Data from "Kerala and Bihar: A Comparison" by K.R.Nayar and Anant Kumar, published in "Yojana", July 2005. ]

Kerala’s achievement is remarkable because the proportion of literate people in the area that now constitutes that state at the time of independence was, although higher than rest of India, still low. [ "The Argumentative Indian" by Amartya Sen. ] According to the 1991 census, Kottayam District of Kerala is the first district in India to achieve highest literecy rate i.e 90.52 percent.

In the graph showing literacy rates in different states for 1981 and 2001, there is considerable variance throughout the country. Large variations can be observed even amongst contiguous states. Union Territories are not included in the graph. It can be seen that while there are a few states at the top and bottom, most of the states are just above or below the national average.

The failure part

In his essay on "Social Infrastructure As Important As Physical Infrastructure" published in "India Development Report 2002", Kirit S. Parikh had pointed out, “With a literacy rate of 65, we have 296 million illiterates, age seven years and above, as per the 2001 census. The number of illiterates today exceeds the population of the country of around 270 million at Independence, age seven and above.” The largest segment of the world’s illiterates is in India.

In his book "The Argumentative Indian", Amartya Sen notes, on the basis of investigations by Pratichi Trust, set up with the proceeds of his Nobel award, carried out in West Bengal and Jharkhand, that absenteeism of comparatively well-paid teachers, particularly where bulk of the students come from scheduled castes and tribes, poses a major problem. Students are circumstantially forced to go in for private tuitions. He concludes, “Sometimes the very institutions that were created to overcome disparities and barriers have tended to act as reactionary influences in reinforcing inequality… The teachers’ unions, which have a very positive role to play in protecting the interests of teachers and have played that part well in the past, are often turning into an influence that reinforces the neglect of the interests of children from desperately underprivileged families. There is evidence of hardening of class barriers that separate the newly affluent teachers from the impoverished rural poor.”

Concerted efforts

Government schemes

The Sarva Siksha Abhiyan was launched in 2001 to ensure that all children in the age group 6-14 years attend school and complete eight years of schooling by 2010. Important components of the scheme are the Education Guarantee Scheme and Alternative and Innovative Education meant primarily for children where there is no formal school within a radius of one kilometre. The centrally sponsored District Primary Education Programme launched in 1994, has so far opened more than 160,000 new schools, including almost 84,000 alternative schools. [ "India 2005" ]

Of the estimated population of 205 million in the age group 6-14 years on March 1, 2002, nearly 82.5 per cent was enrolled in schools. However, drop out in 2002-03 at the primary level was 34.9 per cent and at the upper primary level, it was 52.8 per cent. [ Economic Survey 2004-05 ] The high drop out rate has been a matter of major concern. One of the most popular schemes adopted to attract children to schools is the mid-day meals programme launched in 1995. Several other special programmes have been launched with varying degrees of success. [ India 2005 ]

The National Literacy Mission launched in 1988 aims at attaining a literacy rate of 75 per cent by 2007. It imparts functional literacy to non-literates in the age group of 15-35 years. The Total Literacy Campaign is the principal strategy of the NLM for eradication of illiteracy. The Continuing Education Scheme provides a learning continuum to the efforts of the Total Literacy and Post-Literacy programmes. [ "India 2005" ]

International Literacy Day is celebrated each year on 8th September with the aim to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies.

ocial reformation efforts

Bulk of the illiterates is in the rural areas, where social and economic barriers play an important role in keeping the lowest strata of society illiterate. Government programmes alone, however well intentioned, may not be able break barriers built over the centuries. Major social reformation efforts are required to bring about a change in the rural scenario. Examples of two such efforts are given below. There are many but more are required.

In 2002, Sandeep Pandey won the prestigious Magsaysay Award. While pursuing a Ph.D. in control theory at the University of California-Berkeley, he joined his friends to form Asha (Hope), to support education for poor children in India by tapping the resources of Indians abroad. The enterprising founders raised ten thousand dollars in one year, an auspicious beginning for an organization that now claims thirty-six North-American chapters and has disbursed nearly one million dollars for programs in India. After launching Asha, he himself returned to India, doctorate in hand. He taught briefly at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology and, in 1992, left the institute to devote himself full-time to Asha’s larger purpose: to bring about socio-economic change in India through education.

The flow of money apart, it was not an easy task. In Ballia district of Uttar Pradesh, he confronted the impoverished world of low-caste families and dalits, or untouchables. Few children went to school at all; even those who did, grew up to swell India’s vast unemployment rolls. With local volunteers in the villages of Reoti and Bhainsaha, Pandey has created schools that instill self-reliance and values for a just society. Asha’s teachers take no pay. Instead, they support themselves with sidelines such as making candles and greeting cards from handmade paper. A fuller expression of his vision is the Asha ashram in the dalit village of Lalpur, outside Lucknow. There, students live and study among traditional artisans and engage in bee-keeping, vegetable gardening, and cottage industries. His award was in recognition of “the empowering example of his commitment to the transformation of India’s marginalized poor.” [http://www.rmaf.org.ph/Awardees/Citation/CitationPandeySan.htm]

The Magsaysay Award for Shantha Sinha in 2003 was in recognition of “her guiding the people of Andhra Pradesh to end the scourge of child labour and send all of their children to school.” As head of an extension program at the University of Hyderabad in 1987, she organized a three-month-long “camp” to prepare children rescued from bonded labour to attend school. Later, in 1991, she guided her family’s Mamidipudi Venkatarangaiya Foundation to take up this idea as part of its overriding mission in Andhra Pradesh. Her original transition camps grew into full-fledged residential “bridge schools.” The foundation is creating a social climate hostile not only to child labour but also to child marriage and other practices that deny children the right to a normal childhood. Today the MV Foundation’s bridge schools and programs extend to 4,300 villages. [http://www.rmaf.org.ph/Awardees/Citation/CitationSinhaSha.htm]

Notes

ee also

* LiterateIndia an NPO with innovative programmes for rural children
* Literacy

* Education in India

* Speech on by Keshub Chandra Sen delivered at London on 24th May 1870.

* Kerala model

* Pratham an NGO with successful programmes

External links

* [http://www.nlm.nic.in National Literacy Mission]
* [http://www.censusindia.gov.in/ Indian Census]

* [http://www.accu.or.jp/litdbase/policy/ind/index.htm National Literacy Policies – India]

* [http://www.ashanet.org/stanford/links/need.html Need for literacy in India]

* [http://www.educationforallinindia.com/page172.html Growth of literacy in India]

* [http://www.logos-net.net/ilo/195_base/en/init/ind_6.htm National Literacy Mission – India]
* [http://www.lawmin.nic.in/ncrwc/finalreport/v2b1-5.htm Literacy in the context of constitution of India]

* [http://www.indiabudget.nic.in/es2001-02/chapt2002/chap106.pdf Literacy as seen in the 2001 census]

* [http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl2024/stories/20031205002809700.htm "Frontline" article "Education for too few", 5th December 2003]

* [http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/mag/2004/02/01/stories/2004020100210300.htm "The Hindu" article "Two word mantra", 1st February 2004]

* [http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1820392.cms "Times of India" editorial "Learn to change", 28th July 2006]

* [http://www.thestatesman.net/page.arcview.php?date=2006-08-22&usrsess=1&clid=3&id=154510 "The Statesman" editorial "Institutionalised sub literacy", 22nd August 2006]

* [http://www.telegraphindia.com/1051002/asp/opinion/story_5294523.asp "Left behind by Bangladesh" - "The Telegraph" report on 2nd October 2005]


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