Talk to a politician or a bureaucrat about the fate of education lie would immediately shift to literacy. He would like to emphasize that literacy picked up in the country during eighties and nineties.
For most of us it is difficult to calculate the number of educated people i.e. those who have studied at least up to higher secondary stage.
Literate statistics (sometimes even manipulated ones) are easily available. And who is considered literate in Bharat? Even one who can write his name and read is literate. There may be some who can read the headlines of newspaper or go through some lines of a religious book.
Anyway, the statistics are quite deceptive and beguiling. They are prepared by the field workers to snow their efficiency—if not in producing a sizeable number of really literate people at least in producing paper records in a sizeable number to please the people at the helm of the affairs. Some of them may be true too. There are conscientious people everywhere—though in small fraction.
Taking into consideration the records prepared Kerala should be proud of having the largest number of literates in the country. It was 90 per cent by the end of the eighties. Kerala has been known as ‘Country’s showcase state in education’.
Southern States have always risen to the need of the hour so far as education is concerned. The 1991 census is a guideline for the difference between the advanced states and the backward ones in the Hindi belt. The national literacy figures show 52 per cent people in the age group of seven and above. The percentage could have been more if U.P., Rajasthan, Bihar and Arunachal Pradesh had crossed the line of 40 per cent. Even then 52 percent is quite encouraging to challenge the prediction of UNICEF and WHO that 100 crore illiterate people will enter the 21st century of which 50 crore will be in India alone. Has India proved it wrong?
There are many disparities and deceptions too. The first is that many children are admitted to primary school but a large number does not attend the classes. The difference between the number admitted in class 1 and the higher classes makes it clear that the rate of drop outs is very high; and a large number is enrolled on paper only.
The Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) for primary schools in Tamil Nadu is 135 percent. It is 86 percent in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Meghalaya and Jammu & Kashmir. These states and some others bring the percentage down while the Southern States and Union Territories push it up.
The disparities between the urban and rural figures are glaring; statistics show that 52 per cent of six year olds were at school in urban areas while in the rural area only 26 per cent were at school. Urban areas nave only 23 per cent of the country’s population while, according to a latter data, 50 per cent of country’s higher secondary schools were in urban areas.
The difference between the literate boys and girls too is quite considerable. In urban areas fifty per cent of girls and 55 per cent of boys of the 6 plus age group were at school while in villages only 31 per cent boys and an equal number of girls in the same age group attended classes.
There is wide gap between the male and female teachers too in urban and rural areas. If there are a sizeable number of women teachers in rural schools they would attract a large number of girls. The parents in village would like to send their daughters only if the teacher is a woman. But there are only 21 per cent women teachers while in towns 56 per cent are women. It is these teachers who participate in the literacy programmes. They are not much interested in being forced to take up this meagerly paid job.
The lesser number of women teachers signify lesser literates among rural women. It is not the paid teachers forced by the administration but honorary volunteers from NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) who can hold the reins if they are sincere and have a dedicated cadre.
In December 1987 General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed 1990 as the international literacy year .On December 6, 1989 an impressive function was held at the UN Headquarters in New York to launch the scheme. Although India too has kept pace with the global programme by increasing the number of literates from 324 million in 1981 to 352 million in 1991 the 2.3 per cent annual rate of population growth march the achievement of the country on the literacy campaign too.