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Popularly education or Literacy is defined as the ability to write one’s name. UNESCO has defined it as the "ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts.
Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society. The right to education is one of the seven fundamental human rights.
In 1991 more than half of the total population was literate, with the development the literacy rate has further increased. According to a report of National Sample Survey Organization the children literacy rate increased from 52 per cent in 1991 to 62 per cent in 1998. Female literacy rate is much lesser than males, and is even lesser in many states among weaker sections (SC- 37% and ST- 30%).
The increase in literacy was higher in rural areas than in urban areas during 1991 to 1998. Still about 44% of people in rural areas are illiterate whereas 20% urban population is illiterate.
The adult literacy rate too has increased significantly from 49 per cent in 1991 to 57 per cent in 1998. Many of the literates have not completed formal schooling. About 10% of the total literates are either did not complete their formal schooling or studied below primary level. About 28 per cent of the total literates have completed either primary or upper primary schooling. The rest of the literates have completed other higher levels of education.
India holds 147th position in the World in terms of literacy rate with a figure of 61% (according to United Nations Development Program Report 2007/2008). 2.6% of GDP is spent on education. Kerala is the state with highest literacy rate. Literacy is the key to improvement in quality of life.
Government of India in collaboration with State Governments started a program for Universalization of Elementary Education (UEE) in a predetermined time named Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) in 2001. The program aims to free and compulsory Education to the Children of 6-14 years age group. SSA specially focuses on girl's education and children with special needs.
The scheme includes Education Guarantee Scheme and Alternative and Innovative Education for children coming from where there is no formal school within a radius of one kilometer. The centrally sponsored District Primary Education Program launched in 1994 has till date opened more than 160,000 new schools.
Mid-day meals program launched in 1995 is employed to attract children to schools. The National Literacy Mission launched in 1988 aims to impart functional literacy to non-literates in the age group of 15–35 years. The Total Literacy Campaign of the NLM aims to eradicate illiteracy.
The Continuing Education Scheme provides a range of learning efforts of the Total Literacy and Post literacy programs.
To highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies InternationalLiteracy Day is celebrated on 8 September.