On 8 September 2021, the World Literacy Day, Ficci organized a webinar to discuss the growth of literacy in India over the past pandemic year and the way ahead. In a panel discussion Arunabh Singh, chairman UP West of Ficci Arise, Monica Malhotra Kandhari, co-chair of Ficci’s publishing committee, Vidya Yeravdekar, and professor Rajan Saxena, members of the Ficci higher education committee put forward their views on literacy in India.
Panelists discussing on Indian literacy at Ficci webinar
Singh said that education disrupts the inter-generational transmission of disadvantage. “If you educate somebody, the chances that they will remain disadvantaged are reduced.” He, however, said that increasing the literacy level is not an easy task, although, over the years, many agencies have tried.
According to him, India can shift into the next higher gear by getting more and more people to form a love of learning. However, he said that even literate Indians do not read many books, which can change only with teacher training. “This is where we are lagging. Some of our most poorly trained teachers have the most complicated problems to solve,” Singh said.
National Education Policy – making a child school-ready
Monica Malhotra Kandhari spoke about the government school system and the gaps in teacher training that can help to change school learning fundamentally. She also spoke about the National Education Policy (NEP) and its imperative as far education and literacy are concerned is mainly in the school space.
While governments have emphasized education, they have understood that we must produce global citizens, and the early childhood inputs are critical. “It is the first time in the NEP we have included early childhood as the most crucial facet of education in making a child school-ready,” Kandhari said.
Overcome of exam mindset
Kandhari added that the nation needs a more vocational orientation and system to overcome its exam-oriented mindset. However, this mindset change cannot be enforced by the government alone and has to come from the home, school, administration, and everything around us. “Everyone has to be in sync with the idea that it is not about the number game but the outcome,” she said.
Importance of adult literacy
Saxena’s view was that if India has to achieve full literacy, the country must focus on adult literacy, especially women’s literacy. He explained that the Covid-19 pandemic and its ensuing total lockdown of the economy, including schools, has negatively impacted literacy programs and increased both child labor and child marriages.
Singh’s observation is that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a significant learning loss for school-going children across the globe, whether it is the developed world or the developing world. It is just that the loss has been much severe and perhaps not as quickly remediable in countries such as India.