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Education of Adults in India: A Statistical Examination

Written by Ananya Raman

The Adult Literacy Rate is based on the 15+ years age group, while the Youth Literacy Rate is for the 15–24 years age group (youth is a subset of adults).


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Education stands as a cornerstone for societal progress, fundamentally shaping individuals and communities. While children's education is a focal point in India, adult education often takes a backseat. This essay offers a statistical exploration of the importance of adult education, the challenges faced by adults seeking education, and the initiatives aimed at addressing these issues.


The significance of education is evident in the literacy landscape of India. According to the Census of India 2011, the overall literacy rate stood at 74.04%. Despite commendable progress in achieving universal elementary education, statistical data reveals a concerning trend – a significant percentage of adults do not pursue education beyond the elementary level.


The National Sample Survey (NSS) provides insights into the dropout rates after elementary school. In rural areas, the dropout rate for secondary education was alarmingly high, with 31.2% for males and 32.5% for females in 2017-18. This dropout phenomenon underscores missed opportunities for skill development and limits personal and professional growth.


For adults with no primary education, the challenge of accessing education post-adulthood is formidable. The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) highlights that a substantial percentage of adults lack basic literacy skills. Initiatives such as the National Literacy Mission aim to bridge this gap, offering functional literacy programs to adults. As per the data by UNESCO, till 2015, India’s Adult Literacy Rate was 81% and the Youth Literacy Rate was 91.76%.


Efforts to enhance adult education in India are reflected in statistical achievements. The Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), as of 2021, has successfully trained over 96 lakh candidates, focusing on skill development and vocational training, according to data from the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship. The National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) has played a pivotal role in implementing skill development programs, further contributing to statistical advancements in adult education.


The survey by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in 2022 states that in India, 33% of girls drop out of school due to domestic work. It was also found in many places that after leaving school, children started working as laborers with their families or cleaning people's houses.


During the Saakshar Bharat scheme's implementation, out of the total target of educating 7.00 crore adult non-literates, approximately 7.64 crore learners who successfully passed the biannual Basic Literacy Assessment Tests administered by the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) between August 2010 and March 2018 were certified as literate.


According to figures till 2018, India's male literacy rate stood at 82.4% and female literacy rate stood at 65.8%. India is also home to the largest number of illiterate people in the world with over 25% of the population still uneducated. 


Comparative statistical analysis with other countries unveils the correlation between robust adult education systems and elevated economic productivity and social well-being. UNESCO data showcases countries like Sweden and Canada with higher adult education participation rates, indicating the positive impact on their skilled and adaptable workforces.


Adult education in India demands a statistical and targeted approach. While progress has been made, the statistical evidence underscores the need for intensified focus, allocation of resources, and policy enhancements to ensure widespread access to adult learning opportunities. Drawing inspiration from successful models in other countries, India can construct a more inclusive and effective adult education system, catalyzing the nation's overall growth and prosperity.

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