New Delhi: Several countries in South Asia and Africa have sought India’s help to improve education and literacy levels, particularly among adults.
The requests emerged at a conference attended by 14 countries, including India. Leaders and experts working on education met in New Delhi to celebrate International Literacy Day on Thursday and prepared a road map to promote literacy for “inclusive and sustainable development”.
“India has displayed an example and E-9 countries can learn from it. Here, they can share the best practices,” said Qian Tang, assistant director- general of education at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco). “Your achievement will bring change in the world.”
E-9 countries include Pakistan, India, Nigeria, Brazil and Mexico. They account for half of the global population, as well as two-thirds of people who lack basic reading and writing skills, according to Unesco.
India has a literacy rate of 74%, a jump of 9.2 percentage points from 2001 and 22 percentage points from 1991. Currently, 15 of its states have achieved a literacy level of 80% or above, one of the UN’s millennium development goals of 2015.
The male-female literacy gap has also reduced to 16.7% in 2011 compared with 21.6% a decade ago, according to government statistics.
Expressing her eagerness to share best practices in education and literacy practised in India, President Pratibha Patil said, “even today, in the world, about 774 million adults lack basic literacy skills, two-thirds of whom are women.”
Patil said improving literacy should be both holistic and relevant for development. “Linking literacy with broader skills, such as technical and vocational skills is important,” she said, adding female literacy focus will push socioeconomic development of nations.
Leaders from other nations said India’s gains in promoting literacy can be an example for other nations.
“India is a leader and we can learn how they have achieved the scale,” said Allah Bakhsh Malik, secretary, department of literacy and non-formal education in Pakistan’s Punjab state. Malik was one of the Unesco awardees of 2011 for promoting literacy.
Mostafa Ragab, chairman of the Egypt’s Adult Education Authority said that post the January revolution, the country wants to emphasise on education. “Our literacy rate is 27% and we have come to India to learn how they have structured their system to achieve the high literacy level.”
He said after the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak, the country is looking to build its education infrastructure and here India can be a model.
Prime Hazika, director of the national literacy services of Burundi, said more than 40% of the African country’s population is illiterate. “We will talk to authorities to help fund literacy projects in our country. You are talking about ICT (information and communication technology) in promoting adult literacy but it has not reached many people in our country.”
Jibrin Paiko, acting executive secretary, national commission for mass education, Nigeria, said it is important to learn from India, its focus on literacy and how the country has structured it.
India has successfully rolled out a special programme to improve literacy among women in 269 districts of the 365 target districts over the past two years.
Even economically backward states such as Bihar have made considerable progress. Overall, Bihar has reached a level of 65%, an increase of nearly 16 percentage points in a decade.
“From giving free cycles to girl students to recruiting women teachers, the state has taken steps and is reaping the dividend,” said Anjani Kumar Singh, Bihar’s principal secretary, department of human resource development. “We are committing some Rs 20,000 crore on education in our state every year.”
Singh said that while India is a good case study for the participating nations, it can learn from countries such as Pakistan on how to reach out to minority communities successfully.
Among other things, India will share its Web-based planning and monitoring system, a transparent fund flow and accounting system that it has achieved with cooperation from some state-owned banks and an ICT-based teaching methodology that it has adopted in some of its states.