Saturday, January 1, 2011

Literacy : Key to Development

" Education is regarded as the most critical investment in human development. It is significantly contributes to improvement in health, hygiene, demographic profile, productivity and practically all that has a bearing on the quality of life." So says the nine fifth year plane document. Our awareness not withstanding, our ranking in the annual HRD(Human Resources Development) report (our educational status in an integral part of his report) issued by the UNDP is somewhere near the rock bottom. This is indeed not surprising as our country has the largest number of illiterates in the world-a mind-bloggling 290 million adult illiterates. 
The inevitable question pops up: How is that, that even after fifty five years of independence, we are still far away from the goal of universal literacy. Why have we come to such a sorry figure ? The reasons are not far to seek. India has been investing much less than many other Asian countries in terms of educational expendoture. As a nation, not only do we spend too little to education, the efficiency of resource utilisation has also been very poor. Improper planning and poor implementation have dogged our educational system. Without mincing words, we could say that we have lacked the political will to take the right steps to secure total literacy.
Depressing literacy rates
According to cencus 2001, any one aged seven years or above, who can bothread and write with understanding in any lenguage, is treated as literate. According to the cencus 2001, the literacy rate in the coutry is 65.38 percent-75.85 percent for males and 54.16 percent for femals. Kerela comes on the top with 90.02 percent literacy. The state also occupies the premier position in both male literacy and female literacy( 94020 percent of male literacy and 8.86 percent of female literacy respectivaly). Kerela is clesely followed by Mizoram(88.49 percent ) and Lakshadweep( 87.52 percent). Bihar with a literacy rate of 47.53 percent ranks the last in the country preceded by Jgarkhand( 54.13 percent) and Jammu and Kashmir (54.46 percent). Bihar has also recorded the lowest literacy rares both in case of male and female (60.32 percent of male literacy and 33.57 percent of female literacy).
According to the data provided by the Government, for the first time since Independence, the absolute number of illiterates has declined by over 31.9 million in the last decade. A significant mile-stone reached as per the figures of Cencus 2001 is that while the 7+ population increased by 171.6 million persons during 1991-2000, about 203.6 million additional persons have become literate during the decade.
A comparision of the cencus figures of 1991 and 2001 indicades that: (1) The literacy rates recorded an increase of 13.17 percentage points from 52.21 in 1991 to 65.38 in 2001, the highest rate since Independence. (2) The female literacy rate increased by 14.87 percentage points (from 39.24 percent to 54.16 percent) as against 11.72 percent (from 64.1 percent to 75.8 percent) in case of males; (3) the gap in the male-female literacy rates has increased from 24.84 in 1991 cencus to 21.70 percentage points in 2001; (4) All the states and Union Territories, without exception, have shown increase in literacy rates, the male literacy rate now being over 60 percent; (5) The states and Union Territories which have moved forward by more than fifteen percentage points during the decade are Rajasthan, Chattishgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh (22.48, 22.27, 19.44, 19.33, 17.02 and 16.65 percentage respectively).
Bihar has registered a minimm increase of 10.04 percent points from 37.49 percent to 47.53 percent.
The ninth plan treats education as the most crucial investment in human development. The Prime Minister's special action plan (SAP) has stressed the need for expension and improvement of social infrustructure in the field of education.
This goal has been furthur elaborated in the Nation Agenda for Governance (NAG ), which states;" we are committed to a total eradication of illiteracy. We will formulate the implement plans to gradually increase the governmental and non-governmental spending on education up to 6 percent of the GDP, that is to provide educationfor all. We will implement the constitutional provision of making primary education free and compulsory up to the fifth standard. Our aim is to move towards equal access to and opportunity of educational standards up to the school leaving stage. We shall strive to improve the quality of education at all levels-from primary schools to our universities."
There is no death of good schemes, but the trouble lies in half-hearted implementation of the programmes and lack of motivation among school teachers and the poor infrastructural facilities. There is hardly any healthy contact between the teachers and taught. Parents refuse to send their daughters to school situated pretty far away from home for obvious security reasons. And the incedence of school drop outs still remain very high. A few states like Tamilnadu, Assam pioneered the Mid-day meals scheme to cut down the dropout rate and provide supplementary nutrition to school children and in the process we can bring the children away from the lure of child labour. Many schools are still being run in dilapidated buildings or in the open without any protection from the havoc of climate.
It is absolutely essential that the problem of universal elementary education and literacy is tackled through a powerful mass movement with clearly percieved goals involving the central and state Governments, the Municipal Corporations, Municipalities, the Panchayati Raj institutions, NGOs, the media and every other supportive agency in society. The problem need to be tackled on a war footing. It is now universally acknowledged that the best anidote to the chronic problem of child labour is universalisation of elementary education. It is happy news that the constitution (93rd Amendment) Bill 2001 has made the right to education a Fundamental Education Right. There is an urgent need to impart necessary training to primary school teachers in order to bring down the incidence of dropouts and the high rate of attrition of primary school teachers.
The District Primary Education Programme (DPEP ) aims at providing access to primery education for all children, reducing drop out rates to less than ten percent, increasing the learning achievement of primary school students by at least 20 percent and reducing the gap among gender and social groups to less than five percent in the educationally backard district with female literacy below the national average.
According to the sixth All India Education Servey, 83.4 percent of the habitations in the country were served by a primery school within 1 kilimeter of walking distance. However the number of habitations without the primery schools/sections, as per the norms of 1 km. distance, is as high as 1.76 lakh.
The national Literacy Mission (NLM) ,launched in 1988, aims at attaining full literacy ,i.e., sustainable threshold level of 75 percent by 2005.The Mission seeks to achieve this goal by imparting functional literacy to non -literates in the age group of 15-35(including the age group of 9-14 Where Non-formal Education is not in operation).Today literacy campaigns, being area-specific, time-bound,volunteer-based, cost-effective and result oriented, are the dominant strategy of the National Literacy Mission for the eradication of illiteracy. The importance of fellow-up action is not ignored in the literacy programme and individual interest promotion programmes. Post literacy campaigns are a concomitant to the basic literacy classes. The basic idea is to see that the neoliterates do not slip back into illiteracy. Emphasis is also laid on skill upgradation and the continuation of education package which offers a hast of programmes like income generating programmes, quality of life improvement programmes. So far 561 district across the country have taken up literacy programmes and made 91.53 milion people literate/Of thede, 166 districts have been covered under Total Literacy Campaign, 290 districts under Post Literacy Programmes and 105 districts covered under Continuing Education Programmes.
Under the Vajpayee government, the Department of Elementary Education and Literacy, Ministry of Human Resources Development, has launched the Sarba Shiksha Abhiyan ( SSA ), a historical national mission to provide eight years of quality education to all children in the age group of 6-14 years. The programme seeks to bridge both gender and social gaps with the active participation of the community. All the districts in the country were to be covered by the programme by the end of 2002. By 2003, all children were to be brought to be schools, Education Guarrantee Centres, Alternative Schools or back to school camps. By 2007, all children are expected to complete five years of education. By 2010, children will have completed eight years of quality elementary education.
SSA is part of the long haul for the gigantic task of elimination illiteracy among children, that is targeted to be completed by 2010. The SSA was launched in september 2001. A sum of Rs 500 crore has been released to 520 districts from the total of Rs 1300 crore approved. At the initial stages, under the SSA, we would require 6,078 new primary schools and 4,620 upper primery schools and a contingent of 14,540 primery and 7,591 secondary school teachers. these school need building, class rooms, toilets and drinking water. This would be arranged by panchayats, muniicipal bodies and voluntary organisations selected by the state governments. The SSA needs quick disbursement of funds. Central funds"for infrastructure, teachers or books" are sent directly to the SSA mission, a registered society generally headed by the Chief Minister or Education Minister. From here, the funds are sent to the organisation,"be it the panchayat or the NGO or the school," where the SSA functions.
Literacy is the base of a nation's development. India can illafford to remain a house divided : a house where you find the best skilled man power in the world Juxtaposed with the largest number of illeterates in the world.
The yawning gap between the 'haves' and 'have-nots' in term of educational attainments has to be narrowed down. Let us not forget that ignorance leads to greater exploitation and lack of empowerment leading to perpetuation of proverty, ill-health and a hast of other social problems. Eradication of illiteracy should be on a war footing. Delay means disaster.

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