Literacy in India

For the success of any country it is necessary that its people are educated and literate. India has been a feudal for centuries. The concept of nationhood is still new and people find it hard to understand this and therefore we see acts of riots, religious and regional conflicts taking place everywhere in the country. Education focussing on national integration, cross-cultural sensitivity and equality has the potential to be an instrument to bring harmony and achieving social objectives besides creating a learned society.

Lets discuss about the National Literacy Mission (NLM), set up in May 1987 that aimed to attain 75% literacy by 2007 and had run several schemes to ensure that this target is achieved. But we were able to attain only 65% literacy (as perCensus of India 2001) or 61% literacy (as per Plan Australia).  The current literacy rate is hard to be calculated but taking into account the growth of a decade, we can say that though not confidently that we have not hot hit the target of 75% literacy.  But achieving 65% literacy rate was still an overwhelming task given to understand the size of our nation. However, we cannot make this excuse as when we had set the target in 1988 we must have thought everything before setting the target. In short, we have failed again.

Nearly 70 percent of the country’s illiterate population belong to the eight states of Uttar PradeshBiharAndhra PradeshWest BengalMaharashtraRajasthanMadhya Pradesh and Karnataka. These states have not shown any major improvement in the government’s flagship programmes, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Education for All), for universalisation of elementary education in a time bound manner, and the National Literacy Mission.

The failure of states to implement the NLM has forced the government to set another target – to attain 80 percent literacy rate by the end of 2012, and complete literacy three years later – by 2015. The government has earmarked a whopping Rs.850 billion ($21 billion) – five times the budget allocated earlier – for the education sector in the 11th Five Year Plan, which ends in 2012.

UNESCO, which assists the mission, had in a report criticised the way the NLM was progressing, stating that

India was nowhere in terms of eradicating illiteracy.

Renowned educationist Professor Yashpal has questioned the credibility of the UNECO report, saying that

Who are they (UNESCO) to tell us? They aren’t aware of the ground situation and realities of our country.

He hopes that the Mission would complete its new target of complete literacy by 2015.

The government is committed to eradicating illiteracy. It is its top agenda. All the agencies are being put to work to ensure that the literacy target is met on time.

But the truth remains that we have failed in achieving our set targets and that is due to few states who failed to implement NLM. The lack of zeal and strong-will of the administration and political setup has been the main reason for this failure.

Then what should be done. The GOI should set yearly targets for every state and this should be evaluated at the end of the year. If the state fails to achieve the target, necessary actions should be taken against the government of these states so as to ensure accountability of the governments of these states.

It is important that these states realize the urgency of NLM. This will mean the education of political leaders so as to make them aware of this urgency. Also, the people who are educated should come forward and help in achieving this target. This means, that not only GOI, but also, the people of India need to work on this. There are many NGOs that are working on NLM and are getting grants for their work. But they lack support of masses. In India, we have Reservation in education for socially backward people and many people from these groups have achieved a good education and attained a good status in society. These people should come forward to help government in attaining the targets of NLM.

Until and unless the government gets support of states, bureaucracy, and its people, the targets will remain the distant dream. So, we should realize this and come forward and help government in achieving the 100% literacy by 2015. It is difficult but not impossible.

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16 thoughts on “Literacy in India”

  1. Very true. Government does need the support of states, people, and non-profits in helping India achieve 100% literacy. We very often tend to make statements about the corruption and bureaucracy prevalent in the government. But there have been several reports of non-profits swindling the government funds provided for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Each one of us needs to be responsible. Only then can our target be achieved.
    Well written post.

    Adarsh.

  2. Thank you Adarsh. Yes we all need to be responsible to attain not only 100% literacy but any target.

    Anyways, you didnt mentioned the URL for your site or blog.

  3. True renaissance can come only when our people become educated and we discover our scientific temper. Today, a number of things pull us down – our public’s reliance on superstitions and false gurus (even educated ones), lack of primary education (especially for girls), etc. If our public is truly educated and aware, only then can we hope of them electing people based on merit which can bring in change in the quality of governance.

    Interesting to note that in many pockets, level of education has increased dramatically (e.g Kerela). Wonder if there is a correlation of litereacy and good governance.

    While the challenge is at the basic level, we also need to ensure the nation does not lose its scientific temper. So much of my frustation arises when I see people not questioning status quo or facts which have not reason. Probably the subject of some other blog, I digress..

  4. Rightly said sir. The arguments are all valid against the failure. Actually good governance is possible when masses are educated as they will elect a better government and good education is possible only when there is good governance. So we are actually stuck in a cyclic karma, a chakra that will continue to revolve without. So, a status quo here too.

  5. You are very true sir. It is for sure that I will definitely help the government to ensure literacy and abolish the word illiteracy.

  6. @Pooja I don’t know whom you are addressing as sir. Surely not me. Anyways it is great to know that you want to eradicate illiteracy. But can I know how? See getting inspired is once thing and doing something for the cause is different. If you can share your thoughts then it would surely be beneficial for all.

  7. Very well researched!!!

    Its very difficult to achieve such targets in our country as we have a very high %age of people who can be classified as migratory in nature. I think its relatively easier to get rural folks into school but more difficult to get some of the urban poor. Reason could be higher cost of living. For them survival takes priority and entire family strives for work to survive another day.

  8. @Ashish Yes, you have rightly pointed out that it is relatively difficult to get urban poor to the schools because of high cost of living and also the migratory culture of the people is the main cultprit that has increased the population of urban poor. I had posted a piece on migration last year in april. Find it here.

  9. @Rajeshb It can be and would be a great step. But this won’t put much pressure on the government as we all know governments of states of UP, etc don’t care much about the people. (No offenses meant. But this is how I think as I belong to UP) This will put pressure and increase frustration among the educated people of these states. So, it would be punishing someone who is literate because of illiteracy of someone else.

    However, while writing the above line, I realized that infact it would be great if people realize the impact and may work towards educating others. But this will happen when one gets realization and India most of the people are indifferent towards these issues.

  10. Planing commision is coming up with result oriened planing/budget approch.
    i dont know how many years it wil ltake to get that thing implimented.

  11. We are running 11th Five year plan which begin in 2007 and run till 2012 and target set is 85% literacy by 2012. Will it be possible, this is the question.

    Targets are achieved by not merely planning or launch of a scheme. If these schemes don’t reach the people then it is of no use.

    GOI runs various schemes both under NLM and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, and they are numerous to mention here. But few people know about them.

    Planning commision talks about result oriented planning but has yet not been able to decide on that.

    We don’t have the current data for literacy rate, but going by 2001 census it was 64.84%. And as per 1981 census, it was 43.57%. So total increase was of around 20% in two decades. If the same growth rate is taken into consideration, then I dont think that we will even touch 80% literacy rate. 100% by 2015 is a dream that is too distant!!

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