Adult literacy

Adult literacy - Karthyayani Amma

Context: In 2018, Karthyayani Amma, who became the oldest learner at the age of 96, passed away.

About adult literacy

  • It is a type of education system that educates mature students that have already taken part in the workforce.
  • The 2011 Census the adult literacy rate for women in rural areas at 50.6 per cent as compared to 76.9 per cent in urban areas, whereas for men, the same in rural areas is pegged at 74.1 per cent as compared to 88.3 per cent in urban areas.
  • To extend educational options to adults who have lost the opportunity for formal education and have crossed the age of traditional schooling. These individuals now feel a need for various types of learning, including literacy, basic education equivalency, skill development (vocational education), and continuing education.

Advantages to adult education

  • Gaining education after secondary school as a mature-aged student helps and allows adults to gain valuable skills to increase career prospects and expand their professional knowledge.
  • It helps individuals understand their fundamental rights and also take corrective measures against crimes like domestic violence and child marriage.
  • It can sharpen critical thinking, problem-solving abilities and decision making, in professional as well as personal life.
  • It helps people adapt to rapidly evolving technologies, which is crucial in the modern workplace.
  • Research suggests that continuing education can have positive effects on mental health, reducing the risk of cognitive decline.

Reason for adult illiteracy

  • Limited access to education: Due lack of schools, lack of literacy programs, books, and educational materials or being forced to work at a young age, can lead to lifelong illiteracy. Almost 8% of India’s schools have only one teacher. Some of the most populous states also have the most one-teacher schools.  
  • Early school dropout: Due to family obligations, economic necessity, or personal challenges.
  • Learning disabilities: Some adults may have undiagnosed or untreated learning disabilities like dyslexia, dyscalculia etc. that hinder their ability to acquire literacy skills.
  • Cultural and social barriers: Societal norms, customs, and beliefs can discourage certain groups, particularly women, from receiving an education. Discrimination and gender inequality can contribute to high rates of illiteracy among adults.
  • Language barriers: Migrants move to a new place may face language barriers that make it difficult for them to learn the language and acquire literacy skills.

Government initiatives

  • National Literacy Mission (NLM): Launched in 1988 to impart functional literacy to non-literates in the age group of 15-35 years in a time bound manner. By the end of the 10th Plan period, it had made 127.45 million persons literate of which 60% were females 23% belonged to Scheduled Castes (SCs) and 12% to Scheduled Tribes (STs).
  • Saakshar Bharat: Implemented during 2009-10 to 2017-18 to raise literacy rate to 80%, reduce gender gap to 10% and minimize regional and social disparities, with focus on Women, SCs, STs, Minorities and other disadvantaged groups. 
  • National Literacy Mission Authority (NLMA): It is responsible to design, develop and implement Adult Education Programme in the country. It formulates and exercises policy and planning, developmental and promotional activities, operational functions, technology demonstration, leadership training, resource development, research & development, monitoring & evaluation in the country. 
  • Padhna Likhna Abhiyan (PLA) – A centrally sponsored scheme of Adult Education, was launched in 2020. To impart Functional Literacy to 57 lakh non-literates of 15 years and above age group.
  • New India Literacy Programme(NILP): To impart foundational literacy and numeracy for FYs 2022-27 is 5 crore learners at one crore per year and also to cover all the aspects of Adult Education to align with National Education Policy 2020 has been approved.
    • Critical life skills (including financial literacy, digital literacy, commercial skills, health care and awareness, child care and education, and family welfare),
    • Vocational skills development (with a view towards obtaining local employment),
    • Basic education (including preparatory, middle, and secondary stage equivalency); and 
    • Continuing education (including engaging holistic adult education courses in arts, sciences, technology, culture, sports, and recreation, as well as other topics of interest or use to local learners, such as more advanced material on critical life skills).
  • National Digital Literacy Mission: To empower at least one person per household with crucial digital literacy skills.

To enhance adult education, it is crucial to establish accessible and flexible learning opportunities. This can be achieved through a combination of initiatives such as expanding online courses and resources, offering financial incentives or subsidies for adult learners, developing targeted outreach programs, and collaborating with employers to support skill development and lifelong learning.

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