ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Literacy Achievement in India

Across the States and Over the Age Cohort

The progress in literacy among the Indian states is evaluated here from an age cohort perspective. The primary observation relates to literacy deprivation being different across the age cohorts. Interstate comparison reveals that lower levels of aggregate literacy for a state do not mean lower levels of literacy for all age cohorts. Group disparity in literacy is highest among the oldest age cohort and lowest for the youngest age cohort. With an appreciation of the concept of proximate literacy, the literacy pattern is verified in a household perspective. The observations would be helpful to guide policymakers in targeting households for adult literacy programmes.


Literacy is the most essential prerequisite for individual empowerment. It is associated with a wide spectrum of benefits. It enhances the capabilities of individuals, families, and communities in terms of access to health, educational, economic, political, and cultural opportunities. Therefore, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, recognised literacy as the basic human right and committed to education for all. Indian planners, too, have recognised this role of education in shaping social and economic development of the country. At the time of independence, India inherited a legacy of large-scale illiteracy and lack of proper provision for education, and since then, literacy has been considered as one of the priority areas of focus for development.

The census is the most frequently referred source of information about literacy in India. Therefore, the general comprehension on literacy is limited to the information available in census reports. It presents the literacy rates as the share of literates in the population aged seven years and above, and a change in the literacy rate over the census years is often used to analyse and comment on the literacy progress. In addition, such progress is also appraised with an inspection of its disparity across characteristic groups (regional, sectoral, gender, and social).

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Published On : 5th Dec, 2019

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