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How Rural India Gained 86 Million Illiterate People

IndiaSpend Team,
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About 86 million more rural Indians have been counted as illiterate than the 2011 census data found.


This is revealed by the Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC), which counted 315.7 million Indians in rural areas as illiterate in 2011, the same year as the census and the highest number of illiterates of any country in the world.


Put another way, rural India has more illiterate people than the population of Indonesia–the world’s fourth-most populous country–and twice the population of Pakistan.


Released last week, the SECC, which focused on rural India, counted more people (literate and illiterate) than the census: 35.7% of Indians in rural areas as illiterate, as against 32.2% counted by census 2011.


Source: Census 2011, SECC


The new data have also revealed the low levels of literacy in rural India.


Those who are literate can barely read or count


As many as 14% (123 million people)  of literate Indians in rural areas have not studied past class five, while 18%  (157 million) have completed primary education, or class five.


Given that educational levels in India do not reflect real learning, 280 million literate Indians in rural areas are only nominally literate.


As IndiaSpend reported earlier, only a fourth of all children in Standard (Std.) III can read a Std. II text fluently, a drop of more than 5% over four years. With math, a quarter of children in Std. III could not recognise numbers between 10 and 99, a drop of 13% over four years, according to the 2014 Annual Status Report on Education (ASER).


Only 3% (30.5 million) of Indians in rural areas have completed graduation or a higher level of education.


Source: SECC; Figures in million


Central India reported the highest illiteracy rate of 39.2%. East India reported an illiteracy rate of 38.8%, followed by West India (35.2%), North India (32.9%), North Eastern (30.2%) and South India (29.6%).


Union territories fared the best with less than 15% of the population illiterate.


Source: SECC


Rajasthan reported the worst illiteracy rate: 47.6% or 25.9 million people, followed by Madhya Pradesh with 44.2% or 22.8 million illiterate people, Bihar with 43.9% or 42.9 million illiterate people and Telangana with 40.4% or 9.5 million illiterate people.


Source: SECC


The surprises are the presence of the southern states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in the top 10 state for illiteracy.


Kerala is another surprise in the SECC analysis. While state surveys and the census have repeatedly claimed a literacy rate of more than 90%,  the SECC report says 11.38%, or 3 million Keralites, are illiterate.


Among union territories, Dadra & Nagar Haveli reported the highest illiteracy rate, 36.3%.


Image Credit: Flickr/Premasagar



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