Literacy is a human right, a road towards empowerment and a means for social and human development. Educational opportunities depend on literacy. Literacy is essential for eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy.
September 8 is observed as the International Literacy Day by UNESCO since 1966. Its aim is to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies. This year’s International Literacy Day was dedicated to “literacies for the 21st century” to highlight the need to realize “basic literacy skills for all” as well as equip everyone with more advanced literacy skills as part of lifelong learning.
The essence and role of education articulated in our National Policy on Education (NPE), continues to be relevant even today. It states that education is essential for all and is fundamental to our all-round development. Education develops manpower for different levels of the economy and is also the platform on which research and development flourish to take nation towards self-reliance. In sum, education is a unique investment in the present and the future.
The Literacy rate in India has improved a lot over the last one decade. Especially after the implementation of free education in the villages the literacy rate has gone up tremendously in states like Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan. In a country like India, literacy is the main foundation for social and economic growth. When the British rule ended in India in the year 1947 the literacy rate was just 12%. Over the years, India has changed socially, economically, and globally. After the 2011 census, literacy rate India 2011 was found to be 74.04%.
Though this seems like a very great accomplishment, it is still a matter of concern that still so many people in India cannot even read and write. The numbers of children who do not get education especially in the rural areas are still high. Though the government has made a law that every child under the age of 14 should get free education, the problem of illiteracy is still at large.
Now, if we consider female literacy rate in India, then it is lower than the male literacy rate as many parents do not allow their female children to go to schools. They get married off at a young age instead. Though child marriage has been lowered to very low levels, it still happens.
Today, the female literacy levels according to the Literacy Rate 2011 census are 65.46% where the male literacy rate is over 80%. The literacy rate in India has always been a matter of concern but many NGO initiatives and government ads, campaigns and programs are being held to spread awareness amongst people about the importance of literacy. Also the government has made strict rules for female equality rights.
The literacy rate in India has shown significant rise in the past 10 years.
Kerala is the only state in India to have 100% literacy rate. It is followed by Goa, Tripura, Mizoram, Himachal Pradesh, and Maharashtra, Sikkim. The lowest literacy rate in India is seen in the state of Bihar.
Realising the importance of literacy, Government of India (Department of School Education & Literacy) endeavours to: Provide free and compulsory education to all children at elementary level; Become a partner with the States and Union Territories to reinforce the national and integrative character of education; Build a society committed to Constitutional values with the help of quality school education and literacy; Universalize opportunities for quality secondary education and Establish a fully literate society.
In the year 2010, the country achieved a historic milestone when the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 became operative. The enforcement of the RTE Act represented a momentous step forward in our country’s struggle for universalising elementary education. Its objectives are intended to be accomplished through the following major programmes of the Central Government:
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Mid Day Meal at primary level.
Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan, Model Schools at Secondary level.
Vocational Education, Girls’ Hostel, Inclusive Education of the Disabled.
Saakshar Bharat for Adult Education.
Mahila Samakhya for Women’s education.
Infrastructure Development of Minority Institutions; Scheme for Providing Quality Education in Madarsas for Minority Education.
A good quality basic education equips pupils with literacy skills for life and further learning; literate parents are more likely to send their children to school; literate people are better able to access continuing educational opportunities; and literate societies are better geared to face challenges.