Literacy Rate on the Rise, 11th Plan Targets 80%

by - K.K.Pant, Deputy Director, M&C, PIB
5th September, Teacher’s Day &, 8th September, International Literacy Day

Literacy in India has made remarkable strides since Independence. This has been further confirmed by the results of the Census 2001. The literacy rate has increased from 18.33% in 1951 to 64.84% in 2001. This is despite the fact that during the major part of the last five decades there has been exponential growth of the population at nearly 2% per annum.

According to the Census 2001 the literacy rate in the country has increased to 64.84%, which reflects an overall increase of 12.63%, the fastest decadal growth ever. This is the highest rate since independence.The male literacy rate has increased to 75.26%, which shows an increase of 11.13%. On the other hand, the female literacy of 53.67% has increased at a much faster rate of 14.38%.The male-female literacy gap has reduced from 24.84% in 1991 to 21.59% in 2001. Mizoram has the smallest gap (3.97%) followed by Kerala (6.52%) and Meghalaya (5.82%). All States and Union Territories without exception have shown increase in literacy rates during 1991-2001.

In all the States and Union Territories the male literacy rate except Bihar (59.68%) is now over 60%. For the first time since independence there has been a decline in the absolute number of illiterates during the decade. In the previous decades, there has been a continuous increase in the number of illiterates, despite the increase in the literacy rates, but now for the first time the total number of illiterates has come down by 24.77 million. The number of literate persons has increased to 560.68 million in 2001 thus adding an additional 201.40 million literates in the country.

Illiteracy Size
In terms of the size of illiteracy, eight States, viz. Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka and Maharastra had more than 15 million illiterates each and accounted for 69.7 per cent of the illiterate population of the country.The first four of these states - Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are in Hindi belt and have 42.76% illiterates. Number of non-literates in these States - Uttar Pradesh (58.85 million), Bihar (35.08 million), Rajasthan (18.15 million) and Madhya Pradesh (17.97 million). In Bihar the number of illiterates increased from 31.98 million in 1991 to 35.08 million in 2001. Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh have 10.21 million and 6.10 million illiterates in 2001. It means that 48.12% of the non-literates reside in these six Hindi-speaking States. Other States having more than 10 million illiterates are: Orissa (11.61 million), Gujarat (13.31 million) and Tamil Nadu (14.65 million).

Female Literacy
The Census 2001 final report indicates that India has made significant progress in the field of literacy during the decade and since the 1991 census. The literacy rate as per 2001 census is 64.84% as against 52.21% in 1991, whereas the female literacy had increased by 14.4 percentage points i.e. from 39.3% in 1991 to 53.7% in 2001. Out of 864.79 million people in 7+ age group, 560.68 million are now literate out of which 224.15 million are women. Three-fourths of the male population and more than half of the female population are literate.

National Literacy Mission (NLM)
National Literacy Mission was launched on May 5, 1988 as a Technology Mission to impart functional literacy to non-literates in the country in the age group of 15-35 years in a time bound manner. This age group has been the focus of attention because they are in the productive and reproductive period of life. The National Education Policy - 1986, as modified in 1992, also has recognised National Literacy Mission as one of the three instruments to eradicate illiteracy from the country, the other two being Universalisation of Elementary Education and Non-formal Education.

The Mission objective was to impart functional literacy to 80 million illiterate persons in 15-35 age group - 30 million by 1990 and additional 50 million by 1995. However, now the goal of the Mission is to attain a sustainable threshold literacy rate of 75 per cent by 2007.
The Mission also takes into its fold children in the age group of 9-14, in areas not covered by Non-formal Education programmes to reach the benefits of literacy to out–of-school children as well. The major thrust of these programmes is on the promotion of literacy among women, scheduled castes and tribes and backward classes.
National Literacy Mission eventually aims at ensuring that the Total Literacy Campaigns (TLC) and their sequel, the Post-Literacy Programme (PLP), successfully move on to Continuing Education (CE), which provides a life-long learning and is responsible for the creation of a learning society.

Functional Literacy
The adult literacy programme, defines literacy as the achievement of reading, writing and numeracy skills of a predetermined level. However, the goal goes beyond the simple achievement of self-reliance in the 3 R’s, to ‘Functional Literacy’, which is the ability to apply what one has learnt, to daily life. Functional Literacy one is capable of achieving self reliance in literacy and numeracy; becoming aware of the causes of their deprivation and moving towards amelioration of their condition through organisation, and participation in the process of development; acquiring skills to improve the economic status and general well-being; and imbibing the values of national integration, conservation of the environment, women's equality, observance of small family norms, etc.

The acquisition of ‘Functional Literacy’ results in empowerment, a definite improvement in the quality of life and helps ensure that the majority of India can be participants in, and recipients of, the benefits of the information era.

National Literacy Mission has succeeded in making 124.64 million persons literate. Of these 60% are female. It is also a great achievement that out of the total number of persons made literate 23% learners belong to SCs and 12% belong to STs. Under the Literacy programme 597 Districts have been covered whereas 95 Districts have been brought under Total Literacy Programme. Taking a step further 174 Districts are now under Post-Literacy Programme and 328 Districts are under Continuing Education Programme.

Total Literacy Campaigns
Total Literacy Campaign (TLC) has been the principal strategy of the National Literacy Mission (NLM) for eradication of illiteracy.The TLC has certain positive characteristics like being area-specific, time-bound, participative, delivery through voluntarism, cost effective and outcome oriented. Though the campaign emphasizes the achievement of predetermined levels of literacy and numeracy, there are other activities linked up with TLCs, such as campaigns for universal enrolment and retention in schools, immunization, conservation of environment, the small family norm, women’s empowerment, etc.

The TLC has an assumed duration of 12 to 18 months of which half is devoted to preparation and half to actual teaching/learning activity. In exceptionally difficult areas, the duration is suitably extended. Two activities, namely, environment building as well as monitoring and internal evaluation are continued throughout the campaign.

The initial activity of environment building is closely followed by a door-to-door survey to identify potential learners and volunteer instructors. Suitable primers (in 3 parts) are developed through the State Resource Centres for adult education in accordance with the new pedagogic technique of “Improved Pace and Content of Learning.”

The three-legged management structure of TLC consists of popular committees from district to village levels, the ZSS supported by the subject-specific sub-committees, and the officials of the district and block level administration.

Literacy campaigns are implemented by the Zilla Saksharata Samitis, usually headed by district collectors. Both the central and state governments participate in funding in the ratio of 2:1 for normal districts while the ratio of center and State share for districts under tribal sub-plan areas is 4:1. Presently, per learner cost for a TLC is between Rs.90 to 180.

Post-Literacy Programme

On the conclusion of Total Literacy Campaign (TLC), Post-Literacy Programme is implemented by the Zilla Saksharata Samiti for the period of one year.

One of the major objective of a PLP is to enable the neo-literates to learn the application of literacy skills as a problem solving tool, so that learning becomes relevant to living and working. In the limited time available during TLC, it is not possible to dwell adequately on the functionality and awareness components of the programme. Therefore, in PLP phase, these objectives take centre stage.

One of the first tasks in a PL programme is what is known as ‘mopping up’ operation. Those learners, who dropped out or could not achieve the NLM levels of literacy in the TLC phase, are enabled to achieve them through remediation or mopping up operation.

To ensure that there is no time lag between the conclusion of the basic literacy phase and the start of post literacy programme, which could result in a regression of neo-literates, NLM has laid a great deal of emphasis on the planning and launching of PLP well in time.

Post literacy specifically aims at remediation, retention and consolidation of literacy skills in the first phase through guided learning. In the second phase, learners are provided with a variety of supplementary reading material and library services to help them continue learning through self-directed processes.

Scheme of Support to NGOs
The scheme of support or Assistance to Voluntary Agencies in the field of adult education was designated and started in the First Five Year Plan and was continued with the expanded scope in the subsequent plans. The National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986 has stipulated that non-governmental and voluntary organizations, including social activist groups, would be encouraged and financial assistance provided to them subject to proper management. The Programme of Action (POA) to operationalise NPE, 1986, inter-alia, envisaged relationship of genuine partnership between the Government and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and stipulated that Government would take positive steps to promote their wider involvement by providing facilities to them to participate for the selection of NGOs and grant of financial assistance to them.

In view of the widening horizon of association of NGOs with Adult Literacy Programmes over the period of time, the Scheme is now named ‘Scheme of Support to Non-Governmental Organisations/Institutions, State Resource Centres for Adult Education and Skill Development.The objective of the scheme is to secure extensive involvement of NGOs in National Literacy Mission. The approach and process of providing financial assistance to NGOs is based on the objectives and characteristics of NLM strategy.

State Resource Centres
In order to provide academic resource support to literacy and adult education programmes, State Resource Centres (SRCs) have been established throughout the country. Since the inception of the National Literacy Mission (NLM) in 1988, the number of SRCs has risen to 26. Most of the SRCs are run by Voluntary Agencies, while a few are functioning under the aegis of the Universities.

For administrative purposes, SRCs have been classified into two categories, namely, A & B. ‘A’ category SRCs get grants-in-aid with a ceiling of Rs.60 lakh per annum, ‘B’ category SRCs with a ceiling of Rs.40 lakh per annum. SRCs are graded on the basis of workload and number of years of functioning. In bigger States, such as UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, more than one SRC has been set up to facilitate literacy and adult education activities.

With the gradual expansion of Total Literacy, Post Literacy and Continuing Education Programmes, new resource centres will be opened keeping in view the need to provide adequate and good quality technical resource support to the field programmes. New resource centres will be opened under the aegis of NGOs. All the SRCs are directly registered bodies under the Societies Registration Act with their own Memorandum of Association and Rules and Regulations.

Jan Shikshan Sansthans
The scheme of Jan Shikshan Santhan (JSS) or Institute of People’s Education (IPE), previously known as Shramik Vidyapeeth was initially launched as a polyvalent or multi-faceted adult education programme aimed at improving the vocational skill and quality of life of workers and their family members. The programme was evolved to respond to the educational and vocational training needs of numerous groups of adult and young people living in urban and industrial areas and for persons who have been migrating from rural to urban settings. Now, with the emergence of millions of neo-literates, thanks to the total literacy campaigns launched across the length and breadth of the country and the transformation that has taken place in the economic and social set up over the years, the role and scope of these polyvalent educational institutes have widened manifold.

In the changed scenario, the focus of JSS is now shifting from industrial workers in urban areas to the numerous neo-literates and unskilled and unemployed youth throughout the country. Now, these Sansthans are to act as district level resource support agencies especially with the organization of vocational training and skill development programmes for the neo-literates and other target groups of the continuing education scheme. Hitherto, the JSS scheme was restricted to urban/semi-urban industrial areas. Now their area of operation has been extended to rural areas also. At least 25% of the beneficiaries of JSS should be neo-literates.
During the 10th Five-Year Plan (2002-07), 90 more Jan Shikshan Sansthans were sanctioned with the result that the total number has increased to 198. During 2007-08, 23 more JSSs were sanctioned, thus taking their total number to 221.

The performance of Jan Shikshan Sansthans is evaluated every three years by reputed evaluating agencies empanelled with National Literacy Mission. So far, 116 Jan Shikshan Sansthans have been evaluated.

Directorate of Adult Education
The Directorate of Adult Education, a subordinate office of the Department of Elementary Education & Literacy, Union Ministry of Human Resource Development has been functioning as the National Resource Centre for Adult Education and Literacy Programmes in the country. It is the `functional arm' of the National Literacy Mission, which is responsible for monitoring, and evaluation of various schemes launched under the aegis of the Mission. The Directorate is also entrusted with the task of developing model teaching learning materials for the learners and neo-literates and harnessing all kinds of media facilities for furtherance of the objectives of the National Literacy Mission. It provides professional, academic and technical guidance for the effective functioning of the Jan Shikshan Sansthans (Previously known as Shramik Vidyapeeths). Selected Jan Shikshan Sansthans were also provided financial assistance for implementation of Population and Development Education activities.

With all these intense efforts at the Government level and the great strides already taken the target for 11the Five Year Plan is to achieve 80% literacy rate, reduction in gender gap in literacy to 10% and also a reduction in regional and social disparities.

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