Adult education is the key to NEP 2020 target of 100% literacy by 2030

Updated: Aug 13

Significant stress on adult education will not only help the population to innovate and adapt but also prove to be an impetus for personal and professional progress



Neha Tiwari

National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, recently announced by the Union Government has been making headlines since its release. It presents prospective thinking and sweeping reforms. A significant shift can be seen from rote to applied learning. Key takeaways include mending school education and remodeling higher education, governance based changes through a single regulator of Higher Education and opening up higher education to foreign universities.


The new policy - that has come after a gap of 34 years - sets the ambitious target of 100% literacy by 2030. This target largely depends on the success of adult education programs. Adult education can be understood as extending educational options to those adults who have lost the opportunity and have crossed the age of formal education.


Being a non literate member of the society brings numerous disadvantages, including the inability to carry out basic financial transactions, compare the quality and quantity of goods purchased against price charged, apply for jobs, loans etc., comprehend public circulars and news, help children with their education, be aware of one’s basic rights and responsibilities as a citizen and pursue employment in high productivity sector etc. The problem faced by migrant workers during pandemic was similar in nature. Non literates can be categorised as those who have basic foundational literacy i.e., reading, writing and numeracy; and those who are complete illiterate - not having understanding of letters and only able to comprehend symbols.


The gravity of the situation can be observed by the data from the last census which illustrate that despite a remarkable stride of 8.14% in overall literacy rate from 2001 census India still has 282.70 million (roughly 28.27 crore) illiterate population. This comprises 3.26 crore youth non literate (15-24 years) and total 26.5 crore adult non literates (15 years and above). This number is comparable to the entire population of students in school and higher education sector taken together and representing one third of world’s non literate people. Moreover, typically the non literates in India are women and members of socially and economically disadvantaged groups. Such a sizeable part of population which is non literate must be viewed as a hurdle in the path of national development.


Significant stress on adult education will not only help the considerable population to innovate, adapt and observe new horizons in novel and changing fields but also prove to be an impetus for personal and professional progress as literacy and basic education open up a whole new world for personal, civic, economic and lifelong learning opportunities.


Fully literate and educated workforce will naturally lead to a huge increase in productivity and a more enlightened nation, with corresponding increases in health, justice and equality and much higher per capita income and GDP.


Several steps have been taken, over the past three decades towards improving access to adult education and learning including National Literacy Mission (1988-2009), Sakshar Bharat (2009-2017) and the most recent Padhna Likhna Abhiyaan (2018 onwards).


All these missions were largely based on voluntary involvement and support of people and also initiated dialogue and discussion on pertinent social issues of the day such as alcoholism, dowry system, child marriage etc. Despite showing improvement in basic literacy these programs lost efficacy and their voluntary nature got diluted towards the end.


The only means of compensating for this delay is through a robust and effective system of adult education. Successful voluntary based literacy programs will not only result in growth of literacy among adults in society but also result in increased demand for education for all children in the society as well as greater community contribution towards positive social change.


The new NEP 2020 addresses these requirements effectively. It plugs the existing loopholes by an outstanding curriculum framework which encompasses foundational literacy and numeracy; critical life skills; vocational skills development; basic education and continuing education.


Adult education in India is still an ambivalent concept therefore to make it well received by the masses and ensure participation is mandatory. Mobilization of community is primary requisite to achieve the desired goal.


Observing NEP 2020 minutely, we find that these requirements are dealt specifically. Although it will culminate favourably only after effective execution of ideas such as developing curriculum, ensuring infrastructure and universal access, personalized managers, instructors, as well as an efficient teams of one-on-one tutors to deliver adult education; ensuring widespread participation by community volunteer.


The stated objective of the policy being to achieve 100% youth and adult literacy rates by 2030 and significantly expand adult and continuing education programs. The abilities to attend basic literacy and obtain livelihood is the fundamental right of any individual. As Swami Vivekananda stated “a nation is advanced in proportion to education and intelligence spread among masses.” Adult education must be viewed as an essential prerogative for the development of the country.

Overall analysis of the policy shows that the measures planned to address this issue are judiciously formulated. It is a much awaited step taken at right time and is also an assimilation of cutting edge research and best practices paving way for New India.


(Neha Tiwari is an Intern at Academics4Nation. She is currently a Research Scholar at Department of Political Science, University of Allahabad)

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