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Female literacy on the rise

Last Updated: Monday, May 9, 2011 - 10:37

Ankita Chakrabarty/Zee Research Group

More and more females in India are successfully seeking literacy. The 2011 Census shows higher growth rate for female literacy in comparison to male literacy.

As per the latest Census, the growth rate for female literacy over the last decade stood at 18.2 per cent as against 17.3 per cent for male literacy. The latest Census also recorded further narrowing of the gap between male and female literacy which now stands at 16.6 per cent as against 21.59 per cent during 2001.

As per the Census report 2011, the gap between male and female literacy narrowed from 24.84% in 1991 to 21.59 % in 2001 and the figure has now further reduced to 16.68% in 2011.

Eminent educator Professor Yashpal said, “The rise in literacy rate is because of the fact that the quality of education has improved. The Curriculum Framework which was designed in 2005 has contributed a lot in raising the literacy level.”

In absolute numbers, the overall literacy rate for both men and women respectively has improved under the latest count. In the year 2001, the number of male literates stood at 44,72,14,823 and in 2011 it rose to 54,07,72,113. During 2001 the number of female literates stood at 41,76,85,218 and it rose to 51,06,32,022 in 2011. These represent a 17.3 per cent and 18.2 per cent growth, respectively.

However, the about five per cent (21.59 per cent in 2001 and 16.68 per cent in 2011) gap reduction achieved in male-female literacy falls well short of the 10 per cent fall targeted by the Planning Commission. The Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli alone, however, has shown a 10.4 per cent improvement in male-female literacy gap (from 31.0 per cent in 2001 to 20.6 per cent in 2011).

The female literacy growth story has been fuelled by southern states though most of them too witnessed only about five per cent reduction in male female literacy gap.

Tamil Nadu recorded a reduction in male female literacy gap (from 18.0 per cent in 2001 to 12.9 per cent in 2011). Also Karnataka (from 19.2 per cent in 2001 to 14.7 per cent in 2011) and Andhra Pradesh (from 19.9 per cent in 2001 to 15.9 per cent in 2011) were among the better performers.

Poonam Muttreja, executive director, Population Foundation of India, attributed the growth in female literacy to government initiatives. She told Zee Research Group, “The reduction in the gap between male and female literacy rate is attributed to the success of Mid-Day meal scheme.” But she also opined that “the reduction in gap does not suggest that women are empowered in each and every sector. Women are still lagging behind as far as decision making is concerned.”

States like Jharkhand and West Bengal too have contributed to reducing the male-female gap in literacy rate. The gap has reduced in Jharkhand from 28.4 per cent in 2001 to 22.3 per cent in 2011, while for West Bengal it has reduced from 17.4 per cent in 2001 to 11.5 per cent in 2011.

States with a history of poor sex ratio too have improved their performance in this Census on the literacy count. In Punjab, in 2001, the gap was 11.8 per cent in 2001 and it has now reduced to 10.2 per cent in 2011. Similarly in 2001, in Haryana, the gap was 22.8 per cent last Census and has now reduced to 18.6 per cent in 2011.

Northeastern states of Meghalaya and Mizoram further improved the male female literacy gap. In 2001, Meghalaya reported a gap of 5.8 per cent and in 2011 it is 3.4 per cent. Mizoram reported the gap to be 4.0 per cent in 2001 and in 2011 it has been recorded at 4.3 per cent.

As per the Census report, “In 2001, at the national level, 12 (states and UTs) witnessed higher male–female gap than the national average and for 23 states and UT s the gap was below the national average. But in 2011, in 11 states and UTs, male-female gap was higher than the national average and for 24 states and UTs the gap was below the national average.”

The Census further said in 1991 64.13% of males were literate and 39.29% of females were literate. In the year 2001, the figure improved and it rose to 75.26% for males and 53.67% for females. In the year 2011 the figure further improved and it rose to 82.14 % for males and 65.46% for females.

As per the Census report, there are some states and UTs like Kerala (93.91%) and Lakshadweep (92.28%) which have done extremely well in 2011 with respect to overall literacy rate. However there are certain states like Rajasthan (67.06%) and Bihar (63.82%) which are still lagging behind.

Dr DB Gupta, senior consultant at National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), said it was not difficult to explain the relatively low literacy rates in states like Rajasthan and Bihar. He opined, “There are many areas in Rajasthan which are sparsely populated; as a result the people are still not aware of many government schemes related to education. Moreover, the social attitude of people in Rajasthan towards female child is not enlightened. As far as Bihar is concerned poverty remains an issue over there. Male and female children are still forced to do work in fields.”

First Published: Monday, May 9, 2011 - 10:37

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