Literacy Matters?

Literacy in India

Western scholars of Indology finds that although the Indian Civilization was very advance and carried out researches in grammar phonetics and lexicography, the advances and development were limited merely in the hands of the upper caste.

Prior to the colonial era, education in Indian commenced under the supervision of a guru in traditional schools called gurukuls which were supported by public donations.These Gurukuls Catered to the upper castes of the society and a majority population received basic literacy along with job training at temples as per their caste based professions.

The Britishers Systematically destroyed the education system in India.For example According to British Historian G.W Leitner in his work published in 1881, Punjab had more scholars and intellectuals than anywhere but after the British took over all changed.The literacy rate in punjab fell down from almost 100% to 50% from Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Sikh empire to British Colonization.The Britishers burnt books in Punjab as part of their revenge for their struggle for independence in Revolt of 1857.

It was under the colonial era the community funded gurukuls and temple based education began to fall and centrally funded institutions were set up by the British. The budget for education was half the budget of New York city at the time. The Sargent Scheme, formally known as the Report of the Sargent Commission on Post-War Education Development in India, was a 1944 memorandum prepared at the orders of the British run Govt. of India that outlined the future development of literacy and education in India.It aimed at Universal education in India by 1984.i.e within 40 years.

The 40 year time-frame was mocked upon at the time by the Indian leaders of the independence movement as being too long a period to achieve universal literacy.The Literacy rate when Britishers left India was 17%.

Post Independence, it was in the 86th Amendment Act of 2002 when Right to Education became a fundamental right for the age group of 6–14 years.

The current literacy rate of India is 74% according to 2011 census which is 9.2% more than that of 2001 census.

The Male literacy rate of India is 80.9% whereas female literacy rate is 64.6%.

One of the main factors contributing to this relatively low literacy rate is usefulness of education and availability of schools in rural areas. There is a shortage of classrooms to accommodate all the students in 2006–2007. A study of 188 government-run primary schools in central and northern India revealed that 59% of the schools had no drinking water facility and 89% no toilets.In addition the teachers are barely qualified and the average teacher ratio for all India is 42:1.

Furthermore, the expenditure allocated to education was never above 4.3% of the GDP from 1951 till date despite the target of 6% by the Kothari Commission set up in 1964.This further complicates the literacy problem in India.

Discrimination of lower castes has resulted in high dropout rates and low enrollment rates. The National Sample Survey Organisation and the National Family Health Survey collected data in India on the percentage of children completing primary school which are reported to be only 36.8% and 37.7% respectively.Study showed that only 47 out of 100 children enrolled in class I reach class VIII, putting the dropout rate at 52.78 per cent.It is estimated that at least 35 million, and possibly as many as 60 million, children aged 6–14 years are yet not in school.

The large proportion of illiterate females is another reason for the low literacy rate in India. Inequality based on gender differences resulted in female literacy rates being lower at 65.46% than that of their male counterparts at 82.14%.

Due to strong stereotyping of female and male roles, Sons are thought of to be more useful and hence are educated. Females are supposed to work at home or at agricultural farms as they are increasingly replacing the males on such activities which require no formal education. Fewer than 2% of girls who engaged in agriculture or household work attended school.

So How Important is being literate?

Teaching people to read and write give them a sense of self,a passion,a hunger for doing more,learning more.If you cant read or write in 3rd grade or 7th grade maybe,by the time you would be 18 you wont be able to file a job application,you cant read the bus timings,you cant read the ballots and so you don’t have a voice.You might be an artist or an expert in some field but you will always remain underpaid as you don’t know the importance of your work and its potential to contribute into the economy.

What Problems does literacy solve?

Strive for being Literate addresses almost all social evils that exists in our society today if not resolve them be it population growth ,underemployment,unemployment corruption, juvenile delinquency ,child labor ,violence against women etc.

Literacy may also solve the problem of sluggish growth of the nation.A more literate society contributes more into the economy.The inclusion of education for each one of them who is deprived of it will light up their sphere of social as well as economic freedom.

“Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories. Literacy is a platform for democratization, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity. Especially for girls and women, it is an agent of family health and nutrition. For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right…. Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman, and child can realize his or her full potential.”

Kofi Annan.

former UN secretary,Noble Peace Prize winner.