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Editorial Articles

Issue no 23, 03-09 September 2022


India In Pursuit of Total Literacy


Dr. Shubhankar Mishra

There is a saying in Sanskrit -"Maataa shatruh pitaa vairee yena baalo na paathitah" which in English means "parents not educating their child are the enemy of the child." In ancient times, education was part of the natural learning process in response to the need for survival. The modern day definition of education has added many facets to the learning process other than acquiring life skills. Nevertheless, the fact remains that learning is a life -long process. Being a non-literate member of a community has innumerable disadvantages, including the inability to carry out basic financial transactions; compare the quality/quantity of goods purchased against the price charged; fill out forms to apply for jobs, loans, services, etc.; comprehend public circulars and articles in the news media; use conventional and electronic mail to communicate and conduct business; make use of the internet and other technology to improve one's life and profession; comprehend directions and safety directives on the street, on medicines, etc.; help children with their education; be aware of one's basic rights and responsibilities; appreciate works of literature, and pursue employment in medium or high productivity sectors that required more than just literacy. Eradication of illiteracy has been one of the government's major concerns since Independence. Besides universalization of primary education, efforts to promote adult literacy and adult education have been stepped up over the years resulting in substantial progress towards improving access to adult education and learning. To eradicate the scourge of illiteracy, the Indian Government has sponsored various schemes in the past, such as 'Farmers' Functional Literacy Project' (FFLP): an inter-ministerial project for farmers' training & functional literacy to promote the acceptance of high-yielding variety and usher an era of Green Revolution, 'Functional Literacy for Adult Women' (FLAW): enabling illiterate adult women to acquire functional skills along with Literacy, to gain better awareness of health, hygiene, child care practices and in the process facilitate attitudinal changes, 'National Adult Education Programme' (NAEP): a nationwide literacy programme taken up at the micro level to eradicate illiteracy through the project, 'Rural Functional Literacy Project' (RFLP) & 'Mass Programme of Functional Literacy' (MPFL) for people in the age group of 15-35 years by involving National Service Scheme (NSS) and other students in colleges and universities, National Literacy Mission (NLM) to impart functional Literacy to non-literates in the country in the age group of 15-35 years consisting of the components Total Literacy Campaign (TLC), Post Literacy Programme (PLP) and Continuing Education Programme (CEP), Saakshar Bharat Scheme (SBS) under which 7.64 crore learners (Female: 5.38 crore, Male: 2.26 crore) passed the assessment tests and were certified as literates, etc. The SBS was succeeded by a new scheme of adult education, namely Padhna Likhna Abhiyaan (PLA), with a focus on Basic Literacy.

National Education Policy 2020 and Adult Literacy

Aligning with the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 and Union Budget announcements for FY 2021-22, a strong initiative for adult education 'New India Literacy Programme (NILP) (Nav Bharat Saaksharta Karyakram)' for the years 2022-27 has been taken up to eradicate the scourge of illiteracy covering all the aspects of adult education. The scheme is designed to mainly focus on five components of adult literacy, i.e., Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN), Critical Life Skills, Basic Education, Vocational Skills, and Continuing Education. It is pertinent to mention that under this scheme, Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) has to be imparted through Critical Life Skills to all non-literates aged 15 years and above. In addition, the scheme reaffirms to facilitate and encourage community involvement and the smooth and beneficial integration of technology to expedite the all-important aim of achieving 100% literacy in a phase-wise manner, ensuring that all youth and adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy by 2030. Furthermore, to enhance the reach and access of resources, online modules covering the entire gamut of adult education, a computer application embedded in the Web, namely 'Online Teaching-Learning and Assessment System' (OTLAS), has also been developed. The term 'Adult Education' generally covers adults/elders/ old people. Therefore, the term 'Adult Education' has been replaced by 'Education for All' because circumstantial changes have been necessitated in view of the fact that the terminology 'Adult Education' is not appropriately used for incorporating all non-literates of 15 years of age and above. As per the present and future requirements of Literacy, the term Literacy has been defined as "the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, compute, and communicate using visual, audible, and digital materials across disciplines and in any context." (ILA, 2021).


Bodies Governing Literacy Mission

At the National level, National Literacy Mission Authority (NLMA) is the apex institution for implementing the scheme in the country. The National Centre for Literacy (NCL) under NCERT and the Directorate of Adult Education (DAE) provide academic, technical, and resource support. National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) and DAE are responsible for the assessment and certification of the learners. National Informatics Centre (NIC) and Central Institute of Educational Technology (CIET-NCERT) play a pivotal role in providing ICT (Information and Communication Technology) support. Over and above, at the National level, various Ministries/ Departments / National and International Organizations/ Institutions extend their support through convergence and partnership for the smooth implementation of the scheme in the country. The human resources of States/UTs have been utilized to implement the scheme at the state level and lower levels. State Literacy Mission Authorities (SLMAs), State Project Directorates (SPDs) dealing with Education, State Council of Educational Research & Training (SCERTs), State Open Schools (SOSs), and District Institutes of Educational Training (DIETs) have been involved by the State Governments / UT Administrations to implement the scheme. Besides, organizations coming forward to support through the Philanthropic and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) approach have also been involved.


International Literacy Day: Genesis and History

Emphasizing the importance of Literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights and advancing the literacy agenda towards a more literate and sustainable society, International Literacy Day (ILD) is celebrated worldwide annually on 8th September. The celebration of ILD started following a recommendation of the World Conference of Ministers of Education on the Eradication of Illiteracy held in Tehran, Iran, in September 1965. The Conference recommended that 8th September, the date of the inauguration of the Conference, be proclaimed 'International Literacy Day' and be observed worldwide. The following year UNESCO, in the 14th session of its General Conference held in Paris in November 1966, formally proclaimed 8th September as International Literacy Day with the primary purpose being "to remind the international community of the importance of literacy for individuals, communities and societies, and the need for intensified efforts towards more literate societies." Since then, ILD has been celebrated on the 8th of September every year by most of the member countries. The key aspect of the observance of ILD is to mobilize public opinion in favour of the struggle against illiteracy. In addition, ILD is a forum to disseminate information on Literacy and raise public awareness and the significance of Literacy for individual and national development. In India, literacy, particularly adult literacy, has been a national priority since independence. The National Literacy Mission Authority, since its inception in 1988, has been celebrating International Literacy Day on 8th of September every year to reaffirm its national commitment to achieving goals and objectives of literacy and express solidarity with the international community in its efforts to eradicate illiteracy. This occasion is used for raising public awareness and for environment building to promote adult education programmes. State Literacy Mission Authorities (SLMAs) of different states also celebrate International Literacy Day at the State, district, and sub-district levels.


Literacy and Sustainable Development

The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, mobilize efforts to eradicate poverty and inequalities world-wide. It also views acquiring and improving literacy skills through-out life as an intrinsic part of the right to education. There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals are indivisible and encompass economic, social, and environmental dimensions. Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) is the education goal and is made up of 10 targets. Sustainable Development Goal 4.0 obliges India to "ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all" by 2030. In tune with SDG goals, India's National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 provides renewed impetus to inclusive and equitable education. NEP-2020 envisions that by 2040 India should have an education system that is second to none, with equitable access to the highest-quality education for all learners regardless of social or economic background. UNESCO has been central to improving literacy worldwide. Sustainable Development Goal 4.6 strives to ensure that by 2030 all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men, and women, achieve literacy and numeracy. By choosing various themes every year, UNESCO wants to turn attention to literacy in all its forms in a changing world. Some of the themes for ILD chosen by UNESCO in the past have been 'Literacy and Skills Development' (2018), 'Literacy and Multilingualism' (2019), 'Literacy: Teaching and Learning in the COVID-19 Crisis and Beyond (2020), 'Literacy for a Human-Centered Recovery: Narrowing the Digital Divide' (2021). In addition, this year's International Literacy Day is being celebrated worldwide under the theme, "Transforming Literacy Learning Spaces," giving us an opportunity to rethink the fundamental importance of literacy learning spaces to build resilience and ensure quality, equitable, and inclusive education for all.


India's Quest for New Age Learning

India is committed to new-age learning to become a Global Knowledge Superpower equipping its youth to be the leaders of the world in the 21st century and help them engage, explore, experience, express, and excel in their undertakings. The country is not only endeavouring to ensure that all children have access to quality education with an equitable and inclusive classroom environment that takes care of their diverse background, multi-lingual needs, different academic abilities and makes them active participants in the learning process but also to transform the education into the building of critical thinking and problem-solving abilities with a joy of learning. With a goal of Total Literacy by 2030, the campaign 'Education For All' has been intensified with the voluntary support of ordinary citizens, students, teachers, housewives, CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)/Philanthropic support, etc. However, it is imperative to understand that total literacy of the masses is a daunting task; therefore, on this International Literacy Day, we must take a pledge of 'Each One Teach One.' Every literate person in the society must come forward and spare some time to educate the illiterates as a service to humanity, transforming India as 'Nav Bharat: Sakshar Bharat'.



·         NEP-2020, Ministry of Education, Government of India

·         PLA & NILP Guidelines, Ministry of Education, Government of India

·         UNESCO: http://www.unesco. Org


(The author is Joint Director, Directorate of Adult Education, Department of School Education & Literacy, Ministry of Education. He can be reached at jddaemhrd@ gmail.com) Views expressed are personal.