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Business News/ Education / News/  India has the highest population of illiterate adults: Unesco

India has the highest population of illiterate adults: Unesco

At 287 million, India has 37% of the total population of illiterate adults across the world, according a Unesco report

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Photo: Mint

New Delhi: The world will miss its goal of universal education by 2015, with millions of children and adults still to be schooled, said a United Nations (UN) body.

India has the highest population of illiterate adults, 287 million, 37% of the total population of such people across the world, according to Unesco’s Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring report.

“In 2008, the EFA Global Monitoring Report asked—‘will we make it?’ With less than two years left before 2015, this Report makes it clear that we will not," Irina Bokova, director general of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), said in the report.

Of those going to school, a sizable portion are not learning the basics and the “global learning crisis is costing governments $129 billion a year", the report added.

The report said that insufficient financing is one of the main obstacles to achieving education for all, and blamed the global economic slowdown for this. The finance gap has reached $26 billion, said Unesco.

The agency, which has education aid data till 2011, said the overall global education aid to less developed countries remained static between 2009 and 2010 at $14.4 billion and fell the year after. “Aid to education fell by $1 billion between 2010 and 2011," EFA 2013-14 said.

The UN body advised countries including India to improve their tax regimes so as to provide more funds to the education sector.

“A well-functioning taxation system enables governments to support their education system with domestic finance. Some middle-income countries, such as Egypt, India and the Philippines, have far greater potential to mobilize domestic resources for education through improved taxes, the report added.

In India, rich young women have already achieved universal literacy but the poorest will only do so around 2080, said the report.

Post-2015 goals need to include a commitment to make sure the most disadvantaged groups achieve the benchmarks set.

The report underlined the fact that allocation for education in India varies widely across states. In Kerala, for instance, education spending per pupil was about $685 per year. In Himachal Pradesh, it was $542. In contrast, in West Bengal it was $127 and in Bihar, $100.

“In India, education accounts for 10.5% of the total government expenditure, 3.3% of the GNP (gross national product)—below the 6% target called for by the Report. This is a decrease in spending from 13% of the budget and 4.4% of GNP in 1999," the report said.

“This decrease will be jeopardizing the huge progress it has made in getting more children into school, and its prospects for improving its poor quality of education."

The agency said that at least 28% of the cost of primary and secondary education is met by households in India. This is a higher proportion than the costs met by households in developed countries.

The report said that “a third of primary school aged children reached grade-IV and learned the basics. A further third reached that grade but did not learn the basics. One third did not reach grade-IV and will not have learnt the basics either".

This means fewer than half the children in India are learning the basics, it said. A similar finding was highlighted by Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) published by education non-profit Pratham earlier this month.

The ASER report said that a higher budgetary allocation does not always mean better learning outcome.

“Our analysis of budgetary allocations and expenditure suggests that there is no correlation between overall expenditure and learning outcomes," Yamini Aiyar, director, Accountability Initiative of Centre for Policy Research, said in the ASER report.

A senior human resource development ministry official said the government is aware of the problems that ail education in India.

“In India we have two issues —access and quality. While the Right to Education (Act) has almost taken care of the access part, the government is now focused on improving quality," added this person, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

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Published: 29 Jan 2014, 07:57 AM IST
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