Literacy is the most essential prerequisite for individual empowerment. The National Literacy Mission (NLM) was set up in 1988 with an aim to achieve 75 per cent literacy by 2007. As per 1981 Census, the literacy rate in India was 43.6 per cent. Dominant strategies of the NLM and the Total Literacy Projects (TLP) have yielded some positive outcomes. Literacy rate moved to 52.21 per cent in 1991 and further increased to 64.8 per cent in 2001. As per 2001 Census, urban-rural literacy differential also declined and literacy rate for females increased at a faster rate (14 per cent) than that for males (12 per cent). However, gender and regional disparities persist. For instance, literacy rate among the Muslim minority was six percentage points lower than the corresponding figure for all others. The Eleventh Plan target for literacy is 80 per cent by 2011-12.
Out of the 623 districts in the country, 597 have been covered under Adult Education programmes and currently, 95 districts are under Total Literacy Campaigns (TLC), 174 under Post Literacy Programme (PLC) and 328 under Continuing Education Programme (CEP). There are 26 Resource Centers in various States besides, 271 Jan Shikshan Sansthans (JSS) providing vocational skills to neo-literates. About 60 per cent of the beneciaries are women, while 22 per cent and 12 per cent belong to SCs and STs, respectively.
The amalgamated Scheme of Support to Voluntary Agencies for Adult Education and Skill Development has two principal components viz. (i) Assistance to Voluntary Agencies in the field of Adult Education, and (ii) Jan Shikshan Sansthans (JSSs). The merged scheme provided for enhancement in financial support to State Resour ce Centres (SRCs), establishment of 14 new SRCs, provision of one time infrastructure grant of Rs. 50 lakh to new SRCs, enhancement of financial assistance for category A, B and C of JSS and establishment of additional 50 new JSSs. Neo-literates need to be provided marketable skills so as to improve their livelihood opportunities through JSS.
The quality and performance of NGOs under JSS should be regularly monitored and evaluated by independent agencies and accreditation process evolved by the Central/ State governments to weed out the poor performers. JSS should run literacy linked vocational education programmes for people not going beyond Maktabs (Pre-Madarsa education) in Muslim concentrated districts.
The constraints in the implementation of adult education programmes such as inadequate participation of State governments, low motivation and training of voluntary teachers, lack of convergence of programmes under CEP, and weak management and supervision structure for implementation for NLM needs to be addressed.
A new Mission 'Saakshar Bharat' was launched by the Prime Minister on 8 September, 2009. It endeavors to create a literate society through a variety of teaching learning programmes for neo-literates of 15 years and above. The new Mission has targeted 70 million beneficiaries, of which 60 million are women and nearly 50 per cent of the target groups comprise SCs/STs and minorities. The programme will focus on rural areas, especially districts with low (50 per cent and below) female literacy rates. Nearly 1.70 lakh Gram Panchayats in 365 districts will be covered. Residual illiteracy in urban areas will be addressed through innovative partnership with NGOs and private sector convergence.
Funding under the new Mission will be routed through banking institutions and implementing agencies will have cheque drawing powers. Innovative strategies and technology are needed to impart sustainable literacy to millions of non-literates in a reasonable period of time using primary school within habitations, incentivising existing and retired teachers as well as National Service Scheme (NSS) and Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NKYS) volunteers. While there could be a special focus in 365 identified districts, some activities need to be sustained in other districts as well so that the efforts of TLC, PLP and CEP do not taper. The target of the Eleventh Five Year Plan was to achieve 80 per cent literacy but as per Census 2011, only 74.04 per cent literacy has been achieved.
However, the literacy rate improved sharply among females as compared to males with the latter increasing by 6.9 per cent points from 75.26 per cent to 82.14 per cent and the former by 11.8 per cent points from 53.67 per cent to 65.46 per cent. Literacy levels remain uneven across states, districts, social groups, and minorities. The government has taken focused measures for reducing the disparities in backward areas and target groups. By March 2012, the programme had reached 372 districts in 25 states and one UT covering over 161,219 gram pachayats. By the end of March 2012, about 16 lakh literacy classes enrolling about 174 lakh learners were functioning. By the end of November 2012, 372 out of 410 eligible districts had been covered under the programme comprising 4386 blocks and 161,219 gram panchayats.
The allocation for adult education in the first four years of the Eleventh Plan is Rs. 1,994 crore and anticipated expenditure for the first three years of the Eleventh plan is around Rs. 813 crore. The Eleventh Plan allocation for Adult Education Programme is Rs. 6,000 crore.
Main Findings of Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2016
At the all India level, enrollment increased for all age groups between 2014 and 2016. Enrollment for the age group 6-14 has increased from 96.7% in 2014 to 96.9% in 2016. Enrollment for the age group 15-16 has also improved for both boys and girls, rising from 83.4% in 2014 to 84.7% in 2016. However, in some states, the fraction of out of school children (age 6-14) has increased between 2014 and 2016. These include Madhya Pradesh (from 3.4% to 4.4%), Chhattisgarh (from 2% to 2.8%), and Uttar Pradesh (from 4.9% to 5.3%).
In some states the proportion of girls (age group 11-14) out of school remains greater than 8%. These states are Rajasthan (9.7%) and Uttar Pradesh (9.9%). Joining them in 2016 is Madhya Pradesh (8.5%).
At the all India level, the proportion of children (age 6-14) enrolled in private schools is almost unchanged at 30.5% in 2016, as compared to 30.8% in 2014. Two states show significant increases in government school enrollment relative to 2014 levels. In Kerala, the proportion of children (age 11-14) enrolled in government school increased from 40.6% in 2014 to 49.9% in 2016. In Gujarat, this proportion increased from 79.2% in 2014 to 86% in 2016.
Since 2010, there has been significant progress in the availability of useable toilets. Nationally in 2016, 68.7% of schools visited had toilet facilities that were useable as compared 47.2% in 2010. In 2016, only 3.5% of the schools visited had no toilet facility.
The proportion of schools visited where girls' toilets were available and useable has gone up from 32.9% in 2010 to 55.7% in 2014 to 61.9% in 2016. In four states, 80% or more schools visited had useable girls' toilets. These states are Gujarat, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana.
Drinking water was available in 74.1% of the schools that were visited in 2016, down from 75.6% in 2014. In 2010, this e was 72.7%. In four states (Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh), drinking water was available in 85% or more of schools. There has been no change in the availability of computers in schools since 2014. The 2016 figure is 20% as compared to 19.6% in 2014. However, some states stand out in terms of high provision of computers. In Kerala, 89% of schools visited had computers; this number was 75.2% in Gujarat, 55.1% in Maharashtra and 57.3% in Tamil Nadu.
The proportion of schools with libraries has fallen from 78.1% in 2014 to 75.5% in 2016. However, children were seen using library books in more schools in 2016. In 42.6% of schools that were visited, children were seen using library books as compared to 40.7% in 2014.