Dr. S.L. Marbaniang
Education is highly crucial in uplifting the society in diverse fields – economic, political, social. Therefore, many, if not all, desire to attain at least some level of education in order to be able to cope with their daily life. Nevertheless, due to poverty or unfortunate incidents at home or any reason, whatsoever, some are compelled to withdraw from studies midway. These unlucky ones have to work to feed themselves and their dependents.
Until a few decades back, when law and order was very good, peace and communal harmony was prevailing, those who would like to prosecute or to continue with higher studies would do so at night classes while working in daytime, without any interruption at all. In this manner, many acquired degrees from the universities which further enhance their career. Some appeared in the Indian Civil Services Examination and come out successful.
However, during the last three decades or so, communal troubles flared up and normal life was disrupted. Consequently, classes in the evening shift, both at school and college level, had to be stopped to prevent any mishaps. So the poor and the unfortunate youths had no other openings to improve their learning knowledge or develop their skill.
Government was very much concerned with these categories of the population who had no access to educational learning. Thus, the concept of Adult Education was conceptualized. Therefore, appropriate centres of learning were initiated. For those who are gainfully employed, the Government has adopted latest technique by means of distant education or correspondence courses in various subjects. Under the Scheme, syllabi and curricula have been framed and adopted to suit the need in tune with the changing time.
Adult Education aims at extending educational options to those adults, who have lost the opportunity and have crossed the age of formal education, but now feel a need for learning of any type, including, basic education (literacy), skill development (Vocational Education) and equivalency. With the objective of promoting literacy and adult education, a series of programmes have been introduced since the First Five Year Plan period, the most prominent being the National Literacy Mission (NLM), that was 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, NLM had made 127.45 million persons literate, of which, 60% were females, 23% belonged to Scheduled Castes (SCs) and 12% to Scheduled Tribes (STs). 597 districts were covered under Total Literacy Campaigns of which 502 reached Post Literacy stage and 328 reached Continuing Education stage. At the end of the programme, 95 districts were under Total Literacy Campaign, 174 under Post-Literacy Programme and 328 Districts under Continuing Education Programme. It led to an increase of 12.63% in literacy - the highest increase in any decade. Female literacy increased by 14.38%, SC literacy by 17.28% and ST literacy by 17.50%.
Despite significant accomplishments illiteracy continues to be a grave concern. 2001 Census recorded male literacy at 75.26%, while female literacy remained at an unacceptable level of 53.67%. Census of 2001 also revealed that gender and regional disparities in literacy continued to persist. Therefore, to bolster Adult Education and Skill Development, Government introduced two new schemes, namely Saakshar Bharat and Scheme for Support to Voluntary Agencies for Adult Education and Skill Development, during the 11th Plan.
The President, in her address to the Parliament on 4 June, 2009, which articulated the agenda for the government for the period 2009-2014, stated that: “ .... My government will recast the National Literacy Mission as a National Mission for Female Literacy to make every woman literate in the next five years......”. In the context of Government’s overall policy aimed at empowerment of women and in recognition of the fact that literacy, especially female literacy, is a pre-requisite to socio-economic development, the NLM, was recast with a renewed focus on female literacy and its new variant, Saakshar Bharat, was launched by the Prime Minister on the International Literacy Day, 8th September, 2009. It aims to further accelerate Adult Education, especially for women in the age group of 15 years and above. It targets to raise literacy rate to 80% by 2012 and reduce gender gap to half by the same period. Saakshar Bharat has been categorized by the Government as a Flagship Programme.
“To Establish a Fully Literate Society through Improved Quality and Standard of Adult Education and Literacy”
1) Promote a learning society by providing opportunities for continuing education.
2) Enable the neo-literate adults to continue their learning beyond basic literacy and acquire equivalency to formal education system.
3) Impart non and neo-literates relevant vocational skills to improve their earning and living conditions.
4) Impart functional literacy and numeracy to non-literate and non-numerate adults.
The principal target of the Mission is to impart, by 2010 functional literacy to 70 million adults in the age group of 15 years and beyond. Auxiliary target of the Mission is to cover 1.5 million adults under basic education programme and equal number under vocational training (skill development) programme.
Teaching - Learning Components
To respond to the demand for literacy and to address the diverse needs of the non and neo-literate adults, Saakshar Bharat offers the following opportunities to the learners:
1) Continuing Education Programme
2) Equivalency Programme
3) Vocational Education (Skill Development) Programme
4) Functional Literacy Programme
To carry the programme to the doorsteps of the beneficiaries, the Mission envisages setting up of well-equipped multi-functional Lok Shiksha Kendras [Adult Education Centres (AECs)] at the Gram Panchayat level to provide institutional, managerial and resource support to literacy and lifelong education at grass root level. At least one Lok Shiksha Kendra (Adult Education Centre) is to be established in each Gram Panchayat in the district covered under the programme.
The mission primarily focuses on women, Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), Minorities, other disadvantaged groups and adolescents in rural areas in low literacy States are other focus groups.
The Mission aims to minimize inter and intra regional/state disparities. To minimize regional disparities, the programme, in its first phase, that is, during the 11th Plan period (up to 31-03-2012) will be implemented in districts with adult female literacy rate of 50% or less, as per the 2001 Census. Besides, 35 districts affected with left wing extremism are also being covered under the Mission, irrespective of the existing literacy rate, in those districts.
A systematic assessment procedure has been put in place and is being administered periodically through the school education system.
State Resource Centers (SRCs) extend academic and technical resource support to adult and continuing education programme. Besides SRCs, Resource Support Groups with due representation of educationists, social activists, experienced and committed volunteers/functionaries, representatives of local training institutions etc., are to be constituted at national, state, district, block and Gram Panchayat levels to extend resource support.
Openness, transparency, particulative management, clear delineation of roles and accountability are the essential features of planning process and management. In complieance with the 73rd Constitutional Amendment, National Literacy Mission Authority (NLMA) perceives a pivotal role for Panchayati Raj Institutions in implementation of the programme at the district and sub-district level.
[Ref: With inputs from PIB]
Law and order situation in the State has greatly improved. Therefore, evening classes can be resumed. However, for the sake of safety and security, police personnel can be posted at these educational centres. Moreover, local volunteers will be highly appreciated especially from these institutions.