Literacy mission

The Sakshar Bharat Mission launched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sept 8, the International Literacy Day, is more challenging than other literacy initiatives launched by the government. It is  aimed at imparting literacy to adults above 15 years of age, especially women. While expanding school education, enrolling more children in schools and reducing drop-out rates are all difficult tasks, improving adult literacy is much more difficult. Creating sufficient incentive and motivation for adults and evaluation of results will call for fresh and innovative approaches. The methods of teaching will have to be more flexible and the content should be relevant to the lives of the people. The idea of introducing a vocational element in the programme  will make it useful and hence attractive for the targeted groups.

The programme is in a sense a successor to the National Literacy Mission of 1988, which did not completely achieve its objectives but helped to improve the literacy level from 52 per cent in 1991 to 65 per cent in 2001. Even with the spread of literacy in subsequent years, India has the largest population of illiterate people in the world. The majority of them are women. The Sakshar Bharat programme aims to reach them and achieve 100 per cent literacy in 365 low literacy districts where the female literacy rate is 50 per cent or less. Out of the 70 million people the programme aims to reach, 60 million will be women. Backward and extremist-affected areas will be given special attention. It will be administered through 1.7 lakh panchayats with the involvement of women’s self-help groups over a period of three years. The aim is to achieve a national literacy level of 80 per cent by 2012 and reduce regional and gender disparities in literacy.

The importance of the programme is self-evident. Education is the most important factor in social development and is vital for women’s empowerment which, as the prime minister said, is a force multiplier for progress. The programme will need close monitoring as it will be diffused all over the country with no formal institutional structure. Union Human Resources Development minister Kapil Sibal has said that the p rogress of every learner will be digitally tagged and tracked. Sincere and committed efforts can make the programme a success. It must be ensured that its is kept totally apolitical and above controversy.

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