FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
Digital India cannot succeed without improving Ďability-to-readí rate
Posted:Sep 13, 2017
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
By Brij Kothari 
 
Minister for human resource development Prakash Javadekar recently summed up the country’s state of literacy, and made a prediction: “There was a literacy rate of 18% in the post-Independence era. Today it has gone up to 80% and I guarantee that within next five years, it will be 100%.”
 
Does that imply that 80% today, and everyone in five years, will be able to read and understand simple texts? Not really.
 
Several studies such as Pratham’s ASER or NCERT’s National Assessment Survey suggest that more than half of India’s so-called “literates” cannot read simple texts. A research study conducted by IIM-Ahmedabad confirms that.
 
The literacy rate, as we measure it, is a poor indicator of Indians’ “ability to read.” It only indicates how many people self-reported as “literate.” Generally, anyone who has attended one or two years of school, and can sound a few letters or sign one’s name, understandably, self-reports as “literate.”
 
In addition to asking people “Are you literate?” the Census should follow it up with a specific question: “Can you read a newspaper?” to measure the population’s ability to read. We have found that people who say they can read a newspaper are indeed able to, when tested. Importantly for the Census, the question itself is sufficient and testing, unnecessary, making it a viable proposition.
 
India’s ability-to-read rate is not measured, hence, remains under the radar. Yet, it is an indicator of greater relevance to Digital India’s readiness, than the literacy rate.
 
Digital India requires both hard and soft infrastructure. A billion phone subscriptions and rapidly growing digital access on inexpensive smartphones, are signs of India’s laudable advance in hard infrastructure. The market forces underpinning Digital India are on course to achieving ‘hard’ digital access for all. Soft access is another story.
 
A smart phone with broadband connectivity and data access to the world’s information has severely limited meaning for the non-reader. The ability-to-read rate would capture the soft infrastructure on which we are building our entire educational system, our information and knowledge society, and the promise of a Digital India. Currently, that soft ‘reading’ infrastructure is crumbling for more than half of India.
 
Policy makers could start seeing quality reading skills as an important component of India’s soft infrastructure. While they do voice the need to transition nearly 300 million illiterates to “literacy,” the story of decades past is that they will achieve weak-literacy at best, on a massive scale.
 
Long after India achieves “100% literacy,” most Indians will not be able to read. Digital India requires sustained commitment, investments and strategies to upskill lifelong, the reading skills of an estimated 700 million weak-readers.
 
Quality reading skills are at the core of India’s social infrastructure. Overcoming decades of neglect requires the unleashing of creative and proven solutions, both, in and out of school, and originating within and outside policy.
 
 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
spotlight image Relations between India and Peru  are united by El Niño and the monsoon yet separated by vast distances across oceans.  Jorge Castaneda, Ambassador of Peru to India, talks to INDIA REVIEW & ANALYSIS exclusively about what is bringing the two geographically-apart countries closer.
 
read-more
The United Nations General Assembly rallied around world court Judge Dalveer Bhandari of India on Monday in his bid for reelection, defying the Security Council where permanent members and their allies put up a fight to protect one of their own, Britain's Christopher Greenwood.
 
read-more
The internet services are often being shut down in Kashmir which puts the people through ordeal. In these times when lives have become dependent on the internet, snapping the service only results into throwing the developmental process at standstill. Modern businesses are increasingly reliant on the uninterrupted internet services.
 
read-more
The participating governments at this year’s Asean summit had one underlying interest in mind: to determine the way United States President Donald Trump handles China.
 
read-more
This week a major United Nations gathering on climate change gets underway in Bonn, Germany.
 
read-more

In its own coded and diplomatic style, the World Bank has warned that the government’s growth story is now at risk given the scale of the macroeconomic imbalances growing within it.

 
read-more
Column-image

Title: The People Next Door -The Curious History of India-Pakistan Relations; Author: T.C.A. Raghavan; Publisher: HarperCollins ; Pages: 361; Price: Rs 699

 
Column-image

Could the North Korean nuclear issue which is giving the world an anxious time due to presence of hotheads on each side, the invasion of Iraq and its toxic fallout, and above all, the arms race in the teeming but impoverished South Asian subcon...

 
Column-image

Title: A Bonsai Tree; Author: Narendra Luther; Publisher: Niyogi Books; Pages: 227 Many books have been written on India's partition but here is a firsthand account of the horror by a migrant from what is now Pakistan, who ...

 
Column-image

As talk of war and violence -- all that Mahatma Gandhi stood against -- gains prominence across the world, a Gandhian scholar has urged that the teachings of the apostle of non-violence be taken to the classroom.

 
Column-image

Interview with Hudson Institute’s Aparna Pande, whose book From Chanakya to Modi: Evolution of India’s Foreign Policy, was released on June 17.