Prioritise literacy to build tolerant society: President

September 8th, 2008 - 9:31 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 8 (IANS) President Pratibha Patil Monday asked the government to give highest priority to literacy to build a tolerant society and fight social evils.The president gave away the Satyen Maitra Literacy Award to various districts of India for successfully implementing government sponsored literacy schemes like Total Literacy Campaign (TLC), Post Literacy Programme (PLP) and Continuing Education Programme (CEP).

In her speech on the occasion of International Literacy Day at Vigyan Bahwan in the national capital, the president said: “Social benefits arise on account of better knowledge and awareness that literacy gives. This helps in improving implementation of social welfare programmes, fighting social evils and in building tolerant societies.

“Literacy also empowers people economically and politically. But, the most important are human benefits as literacy enhances an individual’s self esteem and confidence levels.”

The president called upon the central and state governments to give “high attention to literacy as a vital instrument for achieving inclusive growth and sustainable development”.

India has a 64 percent literacy rate. The state sponsored National Literacy Mission (NLM) launched in 1988 was supposed to bring down the gender gap in literacy to 10 percent by 2007, but the mission has failed to do so, according to a government official.

The male-female literacy gap stands at over 21 percent now. The present male literacy is 75.85 percent, while it is 54.16 percent for females.

However the secretary, School Education and Literacy, A.K. Rath in his welcome address at the Vigyan Bhawan function said the literacy rate has risen by 12 percent between 1991 and 2001 and is 64 percent at present.

“Despite this impressive growth, a number of challenges still remain,” he admitted.

Unesco, which assists the mission, had in a report last year criticised the way the NLM was progressing and said “India was nowhere in terms of eradicating illiteracy”.

The government has earmarked a whopping Rs.850 billion ($21 billion) - five times the budget allocated earlier - for the education sector in the 11th Five Year Plan, which ends in 2012.

But the government’s very own National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) - India’s official census agency - had pointed to the sluggish growth of literacy.

Nearly 70 percent of the country’s illiterate population belong to the eight states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka.

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