July 9, 2011, Patna: Bihar's literacy rate may be the lowest in the country at 63.8 percent, but it could achieve total literacy in about two decades like the rest of India, predicts a new report.
During the past decade, the literacy rate in Bihar has increased by 17 percent, much faster compared to nine percent for the entire country, the report points out.
"If Bihar is able to maintain its present momentum in educational progress, it will hopefully achieve total literacy simultaneously with the rest of the country," said the report, " elementary education in Bihar: Progress and Challenges".
According to the report, among all Indian states, the literacy rate is the lowest in Bihar. The 2011 census records it at 63.8 percent compared to 74 percent for the entire country. "The only ray of hope in this otherwise depressing scenario is the faster spread of literacy in Bihar during 2001 to 2011 than in India as a whole," the report said.
The report was released by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen three days ago, which was jointly prepared by the Pratichi India Trust and the Centre for Economic Policy and Public Finance , Bihar. It pointed out that the present momentum in the progress of literacy in Bihar can be maintained only when elementary education in the state is strengthened.
"The differences between the all-India and Bihar literacy rate was only 4.5 percent in 1961, it has gradually increased to 18.2 percent by 2001," the report said. "Fortunately, the spread of literacy during the last decade has been faster in Bihar than in India as a whole, reducing the gap in literacy rates to 10.2 percent," the report said.
It said there are certainly many signs of change. The number of schools has jumped, the shortfall of teachers has come down sharply, attendance of students is definitely up and the enrolment ratio has reached the comfortable figure of 98 percent.
The availability of schools has now been doubled as the number of schools per one lakh population has increased from 60.2 in 2005-06 to 107.3 in 2008-09.
The overall enrolment ratio in elementary education was found to be extremely high, about 98.1 percent for children of 6-14 years. Nearly 95 percent of the students are enrolled in government schools, the backbone of the elementary schooling system in the state.
The report added that there has been an advancement in teacher recruitment in Bihar in recent years, bringing their strength to about 4.33 lakh. However, the total required is at least 7.28 lakh, implying a shortfall of about 40.5 percent.