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Literacy and Civil Society

It is generally believed that education both formal and informal does remarkable value addition to the multi-dimensional development of society. Every welfare state infused with the ethos of a liberal democracy tries to put in place elaborate arrangements for developing human resources. The objective is to make such societies as egalitarian as possible.

Human resource development is theoretically targeted to promote literacy among all members of society with an emphasis on the three R's –reading, writing and arithmetic. In 1971 the % of literacy was 22% among women. It was around 46% among men. The figures rose to 39 and 64% by 1991.And in 2011 census the number of people who can read and write in India today is around 74%-male literacy is 82% and female literacy is 65%.

The Government of India has been formulating customized programmes for various sections of society to increase the level of literacy. In cooperation with the states the centre is engaged in executing programmes. These plans have been implemented in synergy with the programmes of the state governments and with varying degrees of success.

Despite such efforts involving substantial public expenditure a large segment of our populace continues to be illiterate. The Government of India has always tried to promote the level of literacy with substantial changes from time to time be it the National Policy on Education through its variations in 1968,1979,1986,1991 or 2001 .The National Literacy Mission started in 1988, the Continuing Education Programme, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan or Sakhasar Bharat Programme.There have also been popular movements in this sphere duly supported by civil society. This has led to almost 100% literacy in many districts of the country. Ernakulum in Kerala and Burdwan in West Bengal were the first and second such districts to achieve this feat. The newest programme Sakhshar Bharat has also been making steady progress. The Sakshar Bharat focus on the involvement of civil society through voluntary teachers is well taken. However this focus needs to be reoriented to be more effective and successful. The impact has not been in proportion to the financial input.

The empirical insights gained through the implementation of literacy programme implementation can yield newer concepts and methods of execution. The previous and present avatars of literacy programmes envisage a huge army of specialized manpower to the task of literacy promotion. This involved huge government spending. The government should consider implementation of literacy programmes through school and college students in keeping with the slogan –Each one Teach one. The involvement of students can completely transform the literacy scenario of the country. The school and higher education departments of the states should make it compulsory for the students for participate in literacy programmes. Their responsibilities under the guidance of the teachers can range from organizing camps to teaching learners themselves.