Editorial Articles

Issue no 5, 30 APRIL - 6 MAY 2022

New India Literacy Programme A Leap Forward To Achieve Total Literacy

Dr. Shubhankar Mishra

 The opportunity to attain foundational literacy, obtain an education, and pursue a livelihood must be taken as the basic right of every citizen. Literacy and Basic education are powerful force multipliers that greatly enhance the success of all developmental efforts. They open up whole new worlds of personal, civic, economic, and lifelong-learning opportunities for individuals. Sincere efforts have been made to eradicate illiteracy in the country over the years, resulting in substantial progress towards enhancing access to adult education and lifelong learning. However, India still has considerably high number of illiterates. The Sustainable Development Goal 4.6 of the United Nations aims at ensuring that by 2030, all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men, and women, achieve literacy and numeracy. It is therefore imperative that the country should eliminate illiteracy and achieve 100% literacy by 2030.

 In line with National Education Policy 2020, the Union Cabinet has approved a new scheme of Adult Education, namely the 'New India Literacy Programme' (NILP) for financial years 2022- 2027, with a financial outlay of Rs. 1037.90 crore. As per the approved scheme, the term ‘Adult Education’ has been substituted with 'Education for All' to accommodate all non-literates of 15 years and above age group suitably as the term 'Adult Education' is generally perceived as education of adults/elders/old age people. Hence, as envisioned, 'Education for All' would be used in place of 'Adult Education' now onwards.

 UNESCO defines literacy as "the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts." On the other hand, International Literacy Association (ILA) defines literacy as "the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, compute, and communicate using visual, audible, and digital materials across disciplines and in any context." The ILA definition of literacy has been adopted for implementing the NILP scheme as it is the sum total of the present day and future literacy requirements in the Indian context.

The NILP is a path breaking scheme. It has an innovative approach to leveraging technology in its implementation process, enhancing the sustainability of literacy activities, especially in this pandemic Covid 2019 scenario.

The scheme's objective is to impart not only Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) but also to accommodate the different learning needs of learners and equip them to develop sustainable and critical life skills for their professional requirements. Broadly, the thrust of the scheme is not merely confined to impart 3R's. i.e., Reading, Writing, and Numeracy, but to cover other components that are necessary for the holistic and sustainable development of learners. Under the scheme, Foundational Literacy and Numeracy will be imparted through Critical Life Skills to the non-literates in the age group of 15 years and above through online mode by Online Teaching, Learning and Assessment System (OTLAS). The duration of this module will be 200 hours.

The scheme would be implemented in rural and urban areas of all districts of the States and UTs from 1st April 2022 onwards with a timeframe of five years. The scheme would cover all the districts, sub-districts, blocks, towns, gram panchayats, wards, and villages wherever non-literates of 15 years and above are present. However, the State Government/UT Administration has been given liberty to prioritize the districts/areas for implementing the scheme.

The National Education Policy 2020 on Adult Education and Lifelong Learning at para 21.4 states that "Strong and innovative government initiatives for adult education - in particular, to facilitate community involvement and the smooth and beneficial integration of technology - will be effected as soon as possible to expedite this allimportant aim of achieving 100% literacy."

Union Budget Speech 2021-22 (Part-A) mentions important initiatives on education. Among others, it also provides in particular "To enable increased access of resources, online modules covering the entire gamut of adult education will be introduced."

 The scheme has five components, namely Foundational Literacy and Numeracy including Reading, Writing and Numeracy, Critical Life Skills, like Financial Literacy, Legal Literacy, Digital Literacy, Disaster Management, Commercial Skills, Child Care and Education, Health and Family Welfare issues, awareness on dietary habits, exercise, yoga, cessation of tobacco use, first aid care and management of road traffic accident, etc.; Basic Education including preparatory, middle, and secondary stage equivalency, Vocational Skills to acquire requisite skills enabling them to get local employment and Continuing Education to learners of 15 years and above age group in the country which includes engaging holistic adult education courses in arts, sciences, technology, culture, sports, recreation, as well as other topics of interest or use to local learners on as more advanced material on critical life skills.

As envisioned in the scheme, the acquisition of critical life skills, vocational skills, and continuing education will primarily be actualized through convergence with relevant ministries/departments at the central and state/UT level and creating/adapting suitable material for the same.

5 crore non-literates will be targeted in five years, i.e., 2022- 27 @ 1.0 crore learners per annum. Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) would be imparted along with Critical Life Skills. In addition, under Basic Education Component, 1.0 lakh neo-literates yearly will be targeted to enhance their literacy level and provide them equivalency levels.

At national level, National Literacy Mission Authority (NLMA), Department of School Education & Literacy, Ministry of Education and at state level State Literacy Mission Authority (SLMA) of respective states will be the coordinating agencies to implement the scheme duly supported by the various other institutions to augment the pace of teaching-learning activities across the country.

The scheme will be implemented through volunteerism and online mode. The school will be the unit for the implementation of the scheme. School students of Class-V and above who will handhold the non-literate members of their own family will play the role of volunteers. However, School students who do not have any non-literate in their family will also be encouraged. Besides, Pre-service students in Teacher Education Institutes (M.Ed./ B.Ed./ D.El. Ed./B.T.C./ J.B.T., etc.) under NCTE shall teach 3-4 non-literates every year for which credit framework will be worked out. Community members, including from that of Higher Education Institutes, volunteers from Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS), National Service Scheme (NSS), National Cadet Corps (NCC), volunteers from CSOs, community, housewives, Anganwadi workers, teachers, Panchayati Raj Institutes (PRIs), and other institutions shall also be encouraged. About 3 crore students of around 7 lakh schools registered under Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE) and about 50 lakh teachers of Government, Aided, and private schools, and an estimated 20 lakh students from Teacher Education and Higher Education Institutions will also be actively involved. All material and resources shall be provided digitally to registered volunteers through easily accessible digital modes, viz, TV, radio, cell phone-based free/ open-source Apps/portals, etc. The existing ICT and other infrastructure in schools and higher education institutions, Common Service Centres (CSC), community centres, etc., will be utilized.

 Priorities to the age cohorts of 15-35 will be saturated first, followed by the age group of 35 and above. In terms of categories, priority will be given to girls and women, SC/ST/OBC/ Minorities, Persons with Special Needs/Divyangjans (Disabled persons), Marginalized/ Nomadic/ construction workers/ labourers, etc. and who can substantially and immediately benefit from adult education. In terms of location/area, the focus of the scheme shall be on all aspirational districts of NITI Aayog, districts with literacy rates less than the National/ State average, districts with female literacy rates less than 60% as per the 2011 Census, and districts/ blocks with large SC/ST/Minority population. In addition, educationally Backward Blocks and Left-Wing Extremism Affected districts will also be covered.

 Being a non-literate member of a community has innumerable disadvantages, hence the importance of literacy cannot be undermined. Moreover, worldwide data on nations indicate high correlations between literacy rates and per capita GDP. Therefore, through this initiative, the Government of India is committed to achieving the goal of Total Literacy by 2030, transforming India as 'Nav Bharat: Saakshar Bharat.'

(The author is Joint Director, Directorate of Adult Education, Ministry of Education, Govt. of India. He can be reached at jddaemhrd@gmail.com)

Views expressed are personal.