Friday, 09 August 2013 06:59




Status of Literacy in India

National Policy on Education

Sarva Siksha Abhiyan

RTE Act-2009

Yashpal Committee Report

National Knowledge Commission


In a country like India education and literacy plays a major role in society making as well as human development having an impact in the making of the socio-economic development. Higher is the level of literacy and education in the country, better are the standards of nutritional and health in the country. Better are the conditions of population control, economic growth, empowerment of weaker sections as well as the community in itself. Higher literacy  rates are the indicators of the development with consistency.

As per the latest Census of Literacy 2011 – definition of literacy in India is: a person aged seven years and above who can both read and write in any language, is treated as ‘literate’. A person, who can only read but cannot write, is not considered as ‘literate’. It is not necessary that a person should receive any formal education or pass any minimum education standard. Literacy can also be achieved in adult literacy classes or through any non-formal education system. People who are blind but can read in braille have been treated as literates. All children of six years age or less are treated as ‘illiterate’ even if the child is going to a school and has picked up reading and writing skills.

In the Censuses prior to 1991, children below five years of age were treated as illiterates. Since the ability to read and write with understanding is not ordinarily achieved until one has time to develop these skills, therefore in 1991 Census, it was decided that all children in the age group of 0-6 years be treated as illiterate by definition and population aged seven years and above only be classified as either ‘literate’ or ‘illiterate’. Since then, the same criterion has been retained in subsequent censuses of 2001 and 2011.

India and States

As per the provisional figures of Census 2011, in India 778454120 persons have been counted as literates. Among all literates, 334250358 are females, whereas 444203762 are males. The literacy rate of India in 2011 is 74.0 per cent. Literacy rate among females is 65.5 per cent whereas the literacy rate among males is 82.1 per cent.

In order of higher literacy rates; Kerala, Lakshadweep and Mizoram states hold first, second and third positions respectively; whereas in female literacy, Kerala is the first while Mizoram and Lakshadweep hold second and third positions among all States and Union Territories. Literacy rates by sex for top five and bottom five states/UTs in India are given in statement 6.2.

Literacy Rate: India 1981 to 2011

Literacy Rate





Gap in Literacy





















Literacy Status: Highlights

  • As per provisional population totals of Census 2011, literates constitute 74 per cent of the total population aged seven and above and illiterates form 26 per cent.


  • Literacy rate has gone up from 64.83 per cent in 2001 to 74.04 per cent in 2011 showing an increase of 9.21 percentage points.


  • The literacy rate for males and females works out to 82.14 percent and 65.46 per cent respectively. The increase in literacy rate in males and females during 2001-2011 is in the order of 6.88 and 11.79 percentage points respectively.


  • It is encouraging to note that out of total of 217,700,941 literates added during the decade, female 110,069,001 outnumber male 107,631,940.


  • A significant milestone reached in Census 2011 is that a decline of 31,196,847 among illiterates is noted.


  • Out of total decrease of 31,196,847 in number of illiterates, the female 17,122,197 outnumber males 14,074,650.


  • Ten States and Union Territories viz., Kerala, Lakshadweep, Mizoram, Tripura, Goa, Daman & Diu, Puducherry, Chandigarh, NCT of Delhi and Andaman & Nicobar Islands have achieved literacy rate of above 85 per cent, the target set by the Planning Commission to be achieved by 2011- 2012.


  • The gap of 21.59 percentage points recorded between male and female literacy rates in 2001 Census has reduced to 16.68 percentage points in 2011. Planning Commission has set up target of reducing this gap to 10 percentage points by the year 2011-2012.


  • The States/Union Territories which have achieved male female gap in literacy rate of 10 percentage points or less are Chandigarh, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya, Lakshadweep, Kerala and   Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

Ranking of States/UTs-Literacy Rate-2011

Top 2 States/UTs

States/UTs Literacy






Bottom 2 States/UTs

States/UTs Literacy




Arunachal Pradesh



Districts ranked as per Literacy Rate 2011

Top 2 Districts



Serchhip (Mizoram)


Aizawl (Mizoram)


Bottom 2 Districts



Alirajpur (Madhya Pradesh)


Bijapur (Chhattisgarh)



The National Policy on Education (NPE) was adopted by the Parliament in May 1986. A committee was formed in May 1990 under the chairmanship of Acharya Ramamurthi to review NPF and make recommendations for its making. The Report was submitted by the committee in December 1990. To consider the modifications in NPE suggested by the Ramamurthi Committee a committee under the chairmanship of N Janardhana Reddy was constituted in July 1991 and to make recommendations in relation to the modifications suggested for NPE.

The committee recommended certain points

  • Free and compulsory education for all


  • Development of Languages: Three Language Formula


  • Equalisation of Educational Opportunities


  • Identification of Talent


  • Work-Experience and National Service


  • Education for Agriculture and Industry


  • Production of Books


  • Secondary Education


  • University Education


  • Part-Time Education and Correspondence Courses


  • Spread of Literacy and Adult Education


  • Education of Minorities


  • Development of Educational Structure


Sarva Siksha Abhiyan is a program run by Union Government of India for achievement of Universalisation of Elementary Education (UEE) in a time bound manner, as mandated by 86th amendment to the Constitution of India making free and compulsory Education to the Children of 6-14 years age group, a Fundamental Right.

  • SSA is being implemented in partnership with State Governments to cover the entire country and address the needs of 192 million children in 1.1 million habitations.


  • The programme seeks to open new schools in those habitations which do not have schooling facilities and strengthen existing school infrastructure through provision of additional class rooms, toilets, drinking water, maintenance grant and school improvement grants.


  • Existing schools with inadequate teacher strength are provided with additional teachers, while the capacity of existing teachers is being strengthened by extensive training, grants for developing teaching-learning materials and strengthening of the academic support structure at a cluster, block and district level.


  • SSA seeks to provide quality elementary education including life skills. SSA has a special focus on girl's education and children with special needs. SSA also seeks to provide computer education to bridge the digital divide.

RTE ACT-2009

The Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009 was passed by the Indian Parliament in August 2009 and it provides right for free and compulsory education for every child between 6 to 14 years in India under Article 21A of the Indian Constitution. The RTE came into effect as per the 86thConstitutional Amendment Act with which Article 21 A was added making education a fundamental right for every citizen of India.

The Right to Education Act was earlier termed as The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act came into function after Gopal Krishna Gokhale’s famous impassionate plea to the Imperial Legislative Council for introducing free and compulsory primary education throughout India. The Right to Education Act made compulsory all government and private sector schools across India to provide 25 percent reservation to children between the age group of 6 and 14 belonging to the weaker section of the country access to free and compulsory education. India became one of the 135 countries to make education a fundamental right of every child, when the act finally came in practice in April 2010.

Features of the RTE Act 2009

  • Free and compulsory education to every child in age group of 6 to 14 years; education was included in Article 21A making it a Right to Life


  • 25 percent seats in private schools were made free for students from weaker sections and 100 seats of Government Schools for every child


  • The unrecognized schools were prohibited from practicing and provisions for no interviews for child or parent during admission was brought in


  • The Act made it compulsory for every child to pass elementary education before passing the board examination


  • The RTE Act in itself is the first legislation of the world that makes government responsible to ensure enrollment, attendance and completion of children


  • For disable persons, RTE puts an age bar up to 18 years and this is laid down under a separate legislation and that is Persons with Disabilities Act


A report was submitted by Yashpal Committee in the year 2009 to the Ministry of Human Resource Development. The committee was headed by Prof. Yashpal and in its recommendation it suggested the Government to scrap out the all monitoring and regulatory bodies for higher education and create a super regulator for all in form of a seven-member commission for higher Education and Research.

The final report of the Committee on Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education recommended creation of a National Commission for Higher Education and Research that will subsume as many as 13 existing professional councils and regulatory agencies, including the University Grants Commission, the Medical Council of India and the AICTE, is the most important recommendation of the committee. The 43-page final report by the committee to advise on renovation and rejuvenation of higher education in India, has been handed over to the Ministry of Human Resource Development MHRD.

Major Recommendations

  • All research bodies must connect with universities in their vicinity and create teaching opportunities for their researchers.


  • Prevention of study of management and engineering from isolation and to look forward to expansion of IITs and IIMs for creating scholars in the field of linguistics, literature and politics


  • Change of syllabus in a form, where the learning of both the student and the teacher can be applied for studying the local issues, situation and problems.


  • To provide sufficient space for the creation of the knowledge acquired for use of local data and resources to bring into practice to gain experience


  • To provide occupational expose to students by providing internships and summer trainings


  • Institutions of higher education should provide teacher training for all levels of education


  • To make vocational institutes part of universities


  • Zero discrimination between the state and central funded universities


  • Creation of three types of universities, namely state-funded and run universities, private universities and those funded and run by public-private partnerships. All of them should work efficiently overseen by a transparent regulatory mechanism


The National Knowledge Commission is a high-level advisory body to the Prime Minister of India, with the objective of transforming India into a knowledge society. In its endeavour to transform the knowledge landscape of the country, the National Knowledge Commission has submitted around 300 recommendations on 27 focus areas during its three and a half year term. While the term of the NKC has come to an end, the implementation of NKC's recommendations is currently underway at the Central and State levels.

As per Government Notification of 13th June 2005, the following were the Terms of Reference of the National Knowledge Commission (NKC).

  • Build excellence in the educational system to meet the knowledge challenges of the 21st century and increase India's competitive advantage in fields of knowledge.


  • Promote creation of knowledge in S&T laboratories.


  • Improve the management of institutions engaged in intellectual property rights.


  • Promote knowledge applications in agriculture and industry.


  • Promote the use of knowledge capabilities in making government an effective, transparent and accountable service provider to the citizen and promote widespread sharing of knowledge to maximize   public benefit.



The overarching aim of the National Knowledge Commission is to enable the development of a vibrant knowledge based society. This entails both a radical improvement in existing systems of knowledge, and creating avenues for generating new forms of knowledge.

Greater participation and more equitable access to knowledge across all sections of society are of vital importance in achieving these goals.

In view of the above, the NKC seeks to develop appropriate institutional frameworks to:

  • Strengthen the education system, promote domestic research and innovation, and facilitate knowledge application in sectors like health, agriculture, and industry.


  • Leverage information and communication technologies to enhance governance and improve connectivity.


  • Devise mechanisms for exchange and interaction between knowledge systems in the global arena.


Organization of NKC

The National Knowledge Commission consists of six Members, including the Chairman. All Members perform their duties on a part-time basis and do not claim any remuneration for the same. The Members are assisted in their duties by a small Technical Support Staff headed by an Executive Director seconded to the NKC by the government. The Commission is also free to coopt Experts to assist in the management of its tasks. The Planning Commission is the nodal agency for the NKC for planning and budgeting purposes as well as for handling Parliament related responses.

The methodology followed by the NKC is as follows:

  • Identification of key focus areas.


  • Identification of diverse stakeholders and understanding major issues in the area.


  • Constitution of Working Groups of experts and specialists; organization of workshops, extensive formal and informal consultations with concerned entities and stakeholders


  • Consultation with administrative Ministries and the Planning Commission


  • Discussion in NKC to finalize recommendations in the form of letter to the PM from the Chairman, NKC


  • Letter to PM containing key recommendations, first steps, financial implications etc. The letter will be supported by the relevant explanatory documents.


  • Widespread dissemination of NKC recommendations to state governments, civil society and other stakeholders, also using the NKC website


  • Initiating the implementation of the recommendations under the aegis of the PMO.


  • Finalizing the recommendations based on stakeholder feedback and coordinating/following up the implementations of proposals

Major recommendations of NKC and its Impact

One of the important recommendations of the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) is to inter-connect all knowledge institutions through high speed data communication network. This would encourage sharing of knowledge, specialized resources and collaborative research. On the line of NKC’s recommendation, Union Cabinet in March 2010 approved setting up a National Knowledge Network (NKN) with an outlay of Rs 5990 Crores.

National Knowledge Network: The idea of setting up a National Knowledge Network first emerged through deliberations between the office of Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India and the National Knowledge Commission. This was followed by extensive discussions with key stakeholders including experts, potential users, telecom service providers, educational and research institutions, which resulted in the design of the National Knowledge Network. As a forerunner of NKN Initial phase has been successfully executed by National Informatics Centre (NIC).

The architecture of NKN has been designed for reliability, availability & scalability. The network consists of an ultra-high speed core, starting with multiple 2.5/10 G and progressively moving towards 40/100 Gigabits per Second (Gbps). The core is complimented with a distribution layer covering all districts at appropriate speeds.

The participating institutions at the edge would seamlessly connect to NKN at gigabit speed. The NKN shall be a critical information infrastructure for India to evolve as a knowledge society. NKN is a significant step which will enable scientists, researchers and students from across the country to work together for advancing human development in critical and emerging areas.

  • Establishing a high-speed backbone connectivity which will enable knowledge and information sharing.


  • Enabling collaborative research, development and Innovation


  • Facilitating advanced distance education in specialized fields such as engineering, science, medicine etc.


  • Facilitating an ultra-high speed backbone for e-Governance


  • Facilitating integration of different sectoral networks in the field of research, education, health, commerce and governance.