• The Population Commission of United Nations considers the ability, to both read and write a simple message with understanding in any language, a sufficient basis for classifying a person as Literate
  • According to Census of India, ”person aged seven and above, who can both read and write with understanding in any language, is treated as literate”
    • It was decided at the 1991 Census that all Children in the age group 0-6, would be treated as illiterate by definition and the population aged seven years and above only would be classified as literate or illiterate
    • It should be noted clearly that, it is not necessary that to be treated as literate, a person should have received any formal education or acquired any minimum educational standard
  • Generally two types of it are calculated as below:
    • Crude Literacy rate = ((No of literate persons)/Total population)*100
    • Effective literacy rate = ((Number of Literate persons aged 7 and above)/Population aged 7 and above)*100
    • Here, Effective literacy rate and literacy rate will be used interchangeably

Literacy rate-Trends

  • The effective literacy rate for India in Census 2011, works out to 74.04%
    • The corresponding figures for male and female are 82.14% and 65.46% respectively
  • Improvement in Literacy rates when compared with 2001
    • Overall improvement – 9.21%
    • Improvement of literacy rate in male – 6.88%
    • Improvement of literacy rate in female – 11.79%
  • Literacy rate in urban areas was higher 87.7% than rural areas with 73.5%, according to 2011 Census


Literates and Illiterates by Gender

  • One of the interesting feature of Census 2011 is that out of total literates added during the decade, females out number males
  • The decadal(from 2001-2011) increase in number of literates among males is 31.98%; while the corresponding increase in case of females is of 49.1%
  • The above two changes are a clear indication of the fact that gender gap in literacy is shrinking in the country
  • Lakshadweep(96.11%) hold the first position in the country with respect to male literacy rate; while Kerala(96.02%) ranks second
    • Bihar(73.39%) state has recorded the lowest male literacy rate
  • Kerala state holds the first rank, in female literacy with 91.98%
    • Rajasthan(52.66%) state has recorded the lowest female literacy rate

Regional Variations in Literacy Rates

  • Kerala ranks first in the country with a literacy rate of 93.91%, closely followed by Lakshadweep (92.28%) and Mizoram(91.58%)
  • Bihar with a literacy rate of 63.82% ranks last in the country, preceded by Arunachal Pradesh (66.95%) and Rajasthan(67.06%)
  • The gap in literacy rates of males and females is lowest in Meghalaya (3.1 percentage points) and less than 5 percentage points in the States of Kerala and Mizoram and between 5 to 10 percentage points in A&N Island, Chandigarh, Goa, Lakshadweep Nagaland, Punjab and Tripura
  • The gap in literacy rates of males and females is highest in the State of Rajasthan (27.1 percentage points) and much more in the States of Chhattisgarh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh


Measures taken in India towards increasing Literacy rate

  • The Constitution of India recognizes the importance of education for all. Therefore, it lays down several provisions to ensure proper and effective implementation of educational rights in the country, which include:
    • Education of Minorities: Article 30 of the Indian Constitution gives all minorities the right to establish and administer institutions of their own choice
    • Free and Compulsory Education: The Constitution of India (u/a 41, 45 and 46 of the Directive Principles of State Policy) instructs the state to ensure that all citizens receive free education
  • Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA)
    • The program was launched in 2001, and it aims to universalise education and improves its quality by time-bound implementation strategy and context-specific planning. It includes children from all social classes
  • Midday Meal Scheme
    • This plan was launched in 1995 to provide mid-day meals to children studying in primary class. The main objective of creating this scheme was to eliminate classroom hunger of children and to increase attendance and enrolment of children at schools
  • The Right to Education (RTE) Act was enacted in 2009, and this Act made education for every child between 6 and 14 years a fundamental right
  • The National Education Policy  2020, aims to achieve 100% youth and adult literacy.


Efforts needed to take India’s Literacy rate to greater heights

  • Revamping the teacher education (TE) system
    • We should focus on revamping curriculum and pedagogy to bring modern and innovative elements within it and making it a lot more rigorous.
  • Create a national discourse and imperative around the importance of good quality school leadership. This will help in improving and maintaining school quality, nurturing a learning culture within schools, maintaining teacher motivation, ensuring respect for and involvement of all stakeholders
  • Work on expanding the idea of good education. There is need to extend it beyond rote learning of concepts. It should largely focus on cognitive development to a belief that values the uniqueness of a child and the celebration of different definitions of ‘intelligence’.
  • Extend the scope. With the Right to Education (RTE) Act now making primary education compulsory, there is need look at extending its scope to include pre-primary education (which is not there in all states).