What is the definition of Illiteracy?
Illiteracy means when a person cannot read or write. UNESCO defines functional illiteracy as “measured by assessing reading, writing and mathematical skills in the various domains of social life which influence individual identity and insertion into society. From this perspective, literacy involves not only reading and writing but also the acquisition of the skills necessary for effective and productive performance within society” (UNESCO 2011). Of equal relevance is the concept of functional illiteracy, which means an individual may have basic reading, writing and numerical skills but cannot apply them to accomplish tasks that are necessary to make informed choices and participate fully in everyday life. Such tasks may include:
- Reading a medicine label
- Reading a nutritional label on a food product
- Balancing a Cheque book
- Filling out a job application
- Reading and responding to correspondence in the workplace
- Filling out a home loan application
- Reading a bank statement
- Comparing the cost of two items to work out which one offers the best value
- Working out the correct change at a supermarket
Illiteracy is a major problem in a nation like India. Where each day we are calling ourselves ‘developing’ but various aspects of our region are still at level zero. As per 2013 Census, the overall literacy rate of India is 74.04%. But the difference between the highest and the lowest literacy rate in India still remain very high. For example in the state of Kerala the literacy rate is 93.9%, while in the state of Bihar the rates are as low as 63.08%.
Causes of illiteracy:
A problem as grave as illiteracy has deep-rooted causes:
- Economic conditions of the people: The economic conditions of India are, as known, is very poor. People have acute shortage of money to even, buy a day’s meal, and illiteracy is a much further concept.
- Ineffective implementation of educational program in rural areas: It is not like educational facilities are not there, it is just that they are not properly implemented in the rural sector. And even if they are implemented they are not maintained properly.
- Lack of entrepreneurship by the educated to share and spared knowledge: Most of us surfing the internet and reading different blog and updating our facebook have clearly passed high school. And a high school graduate is all that is required to make an illiterate, a literate.
- Preference to work rather than to study (no internal economic incentives): It is a rather common concept in India (rather among Indian parents, educated or not,) that if one doesn’t want to study, one should better work. And this logic is abused among the rural families, as they feel that it is easier to gather money by working than by studying for years and then working.
- Emigration of educated individuals (external economic incentives): As mentioned India lack entrepreneurship. One because people don’t care and second because most of the young entrepreneurship, migrate to foreign nations looking for better jobs and better pay. Although that is good for them, but the effects are faced by India.
- No family support: One major drawback in our Indian society is that, we lack family support. Only a very few of us are lucky enough to get cent per cent family back up. And when this mentality is used in case if education in the poor households, the youngsters of those household feel unmotivated to go to school.
- Many siblings: Goes without saying that the population of India has been on a climb for quiet sometime now. And the families that have more than three children in a household is the rural section. And because they have so many siblings, it becomes more costly for the family to send each of them to school, so finally resort to making them work, to increase the household income.
Impact of Illiteracy:
- Health: Reports say that illiteracy significantly limits a person’s ability to access, understand and apply health-related information and messages. This results in poor household and personal health, hygiene and nutrition. Illiteracy increases the likelihood of high-risk sexual behavior for the lack of awareness and inadequate or no use of contraception. One study showed illiterate women are three times more likely than literate ones to know that a person in seemingly good health can be infected with HIV.
- Crime: In various countries around the world, studies show that a majority of prison inmates have poor literacy skills. Also, up to 85% juvenile delinquents are functionally illiterate.
- Welfare: Illiterate people are more likely to be on unemployment benefits having dropped out of school or being unable to find work. High school dropouts are more than three times likely to receive welfare than high school graduates. Low earning potential due to illiteracy also makes a higher number of welfare dependents, which puts a heavy burden on the social security system of any nation.
Eradication of illiteracy:
Eradication of illiteracy has been one of the major national concerns of the Government of India since independence. A number of significant programs have been taken up since Independence to eradicate illiteracy among adults. Some of the important programs included:
- Social Education: implemented in the First Five-Year Plan (1951-56). The program gave importance to literacy, extension, general education, leadership training and social consciousness.
- ‘Gram Shikshan Mohim’: a movement for literacy in the rural areas started first in Satara district of Maharashtra in 1959 which was later extended to other parts of the state. The program aimed at imparting basic literacy skills within a period of four months.
- Farmer’s Functional Literacy Project (FFLP): started in 1967-68 as an inter-ministerial project for farmers’ training and functional literacy. The project aimed at popularization of high yielding varieties of seeds through the process of adult education in 144 districts.
- Non-formal education (NFE): launched in the beginning of Fifth Five Year Plan for the age group of 15-25 years.
- Functional Literacy for Adult Women (FLAW): started in 1975-76 in the experimental Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) project areas. The scheme included a component which enabled illiterate adult women to acquire functional skills along with literacy, to gain better awareness of health, hygiene, child care practices and in the process facilitated attitudinal changes.
- National Adult Education Programme (NAEP): launched on October, 2 1978. This was the first program in India taken up at macro level to eradicate illiteracy through project approach. It was a massive program aimed at educating 100 million non-literate adults in the age-group of 15-35 years within a time frame of five years.
- Rural Functional Literacy Project (RFLP): the objectives of the scheme were: to impart functional literacy to all illiterate persons in 15-35 age group who are living in the rural areas by organizing specified number of literacy centers in accordance with the norms and guidelines issued by the then Department of Education, Ministry of HRD from time to time.
- Mass Program of Functional Literacy (MPFL): launched on May 1, 1986 by involving National Service Scheme (NSS) and other students in colleges and universities. During 1987-88, NCC Cadets from senior division were also involved in the program.
In my opinion Teach India is one of the most brilliant and fresh start to educate the underprivileged in India among the many.
The Times Group launched Teach India (2011) as an initiative to teach spoken English to the youth belonging to the underprivileged sections of the urban society. British council has been brought on board for designing the curriculum and for training the volunteers and teachers who will be imparting the curriculum to the learners. The curriculum for the course has been designed keeping in mind the present language levels of the target segment and the spoken English requirements of potential employers. The Times Group pro-actively attempts to build a bridge between the learners and the potential employers and connect the two. On completion of the course, the learners get a certificate which is jointly certified by both The Times Group and British Council.
Yes, the government of India does a lot to make sure that, the majority of the nation’s population gets basic education, but there still lies loop holes which has too be fixed. And the only hope in that matter is us. Just like it is said in the movie Rang de Basanti “Koi desh perfect nehi hota, usse perfect banna na paad ta hai…” so we are the hope for a better nation, because we make our nation.