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India’s illiterate population largest in the world, says UNESCO report

Headway in improving access to education acknowledged

The latest Education For All Global Monitoring Report (GMR) — released worldwide by the UNESCO
on Tuesday — acknowledges the headway made by India in improving access to education but the country’s population of illiterate adults has been identified as the drag factor.
India currently has the largest population of illiterate adults in the world with 287 million. This is 37 per cent of the global total. While India’s literacy rate rose from 48 per cent in 1991 to 63 per cent in 2006, “population growth cancelled the gains so there was no change in the number of illiterate adults,” the report stated.
There are better tidings for India at the pre-primary and primary level. India features among the countries likely to achieve the pre-primary enrolment target of at least 70 per cent by 2015 along with countries like Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and United Kingdom.
Similarly, India is in the top bracket of countries likely to achieve a primary enrolment target of at least 95 per cent by 2015. This league includes Australia, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom and United States.
However, the report questions the quality of education; placing India among the 21 countries facing an “extensive” learning crisis. Referring to the new analysis, the GMR said less than half of the children were learning the basics in 21 of the 85 countries with full data available. India features in this list along with 17 countries from sub-Saharan Africa, Mauritania, Morocco and Pakistan.
Part of the learning crisis has been attributed to the ambitious curriculum drawn out for children in India; including disadvantaged learners. Contrasting this to Vietnam — where the curriculum focuses on foundation skills and is closely matched to what children are able to learn, especially disadvantaged learners — the report pointed out that India’s curriculum “outpaces what pupils can realistically learn and achieve in the time given”.
According to the report, India — despite spending a considerable amount on education — has reduced its expenditure on education from 13 per cent of the entire government budget in 1999 to 10 per cent in 2010.

  • India likely to achieve primary enrolment target by 2015

  • India placed among 21 countries facing “extensive” learning crisis
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