Introductory notes

Illiteracy and lack of school education for all continue to be a major aspect of the socio-economic underdevelopment in India.


Data on levels of literacy are collected as part of population census, in most NSS surveys of households, as well as in other large-scale surveys like the National Family Health Survey.

In large-scale surveys literacy is normally ascertained by asking the respondents about whether they can read and write. Instructions in the NSS Instruction Manual for the 66th round surveys are illustrative in this regard.

A person who can both read and write a simple message with understanding in at least one language is to be considered literate. Those who are not able to do so are to be considered not literate and will be assigned code 01. Some persons achieve literacy by attending Non-formal Education Courses (NFEC) or Adult Education Centres (AEC) or by attending primary schools created under Education Guarantee Scheme (EGS). Such persons will be given code 02.

Those who achieved literacy through Total Literacy Campaign (TLC) will be given code 03. Other literates without formal schooling will be given code 04. Those who achieved literacy through formal schooling (excluding schools created under EGS) but are yet to pass the primary standard examination will be assigned code 05. Similarly codes 06-08 and 10-13 will be assigned to those who have passed the appropriate levels. The criteria for deciding primary, middle, secondary, etc. levels will be that followed in the concerned States/Union Territories. Persons who have attained proficiency in Oriental languages (e.g., Sanskrit, Persian, etc.) through formal but not through the general type of education will be classified appropriately at the equivalent level of general education standard. Those who have completed some diploma or certificate course in general, technical education or vocational education which is equivalent to below-graduation level, will be assigned code 11. On the other hand, those who have obtained degree or diploma or certificate in general, technical education or vocational education, which is equivalent to graduation level, will be given code 12. Code 13 will be assigned to those who have obtained degree or diploma or certificate in general or technical education which is equivalent to post-graduation level and above.

In the literacy campaigns, in the 1980s, instruments were designed to measure levels of literacy by asking people to actually read specified text. This is not done either in Census or in NSSO surveys. Among recent large-scale surveys, such tools for measurement of learning achievements were used in ASER surveys. Rukmini S. has three useful articles in The Hindu discussing data on learning achievements [rukmini210114,rukmini020214,rukmini030214].

School attendance

Rawal (2011) discusses problems of official statistics on school attendance.[vikaseducation2011] Main conclusion on this issue is summarised in the paper as follows:

Official statistics on school education have been extremely misleading, and some of the agencies involved in the collection of these data have done great disservice to the cause of universalisation of school education by providing misleading statistics. Data on school education in India are collected at the school level and the household level. The data collected from schools, which form the basis for official estimates of school enrolment, provide hugely inflated estimates of the proportion of children regularly attending school. Such statistics have been used to underplay the problem and to underestimate the resources required to ensure free schooling for all children (Ramachandran, Rawal, and Swaminathan 1997). Over-reporting of school enrolment at initial levels of schooling results in overestimation of drop-outs, when most of the children recorded as drop-outs have actually never attended school. Such distortion of data results in inappropriate policy formulation with little focus on identifying out-of-school children and bringing them to school.

Another important limitation of the school-based statistics is that they cannot be used to separately study the access of rural children to schooling. Since a substantial number of rural children attend schools located in urban areas, rates of school attendance among them must be measured through household surveys and not through school-based statistics.

In view of the above, it is clear that household survey-based data from the Censuses of India and NSSO surveys should form the basis for official estimates of rates of school attendance and the number of out-of-school children.

Schooling infrastructure and teachers

Main sources of data on schooling infrastructure and teachers are

  • The All India School Education Survey (AISES), conducted by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).

    This survey has been conducted in 1957, 1965, 1973, 1978, 1986, 1998, 2002, and 2009. Detailed data at the level of individual schools are available from the sixth (1998) and seventh (2002) surveys. The results of the eighth round of AISES, conducted in 2009, are not yet available.

  • The District Information System for Education (DISE), developed and maintained by the National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA).

    DISE was initiated in 1995–96 for monitoring evaluation of the District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) and was later integrated with the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) as a monitoring tool. It was implemented in 42 districts to begin with and then extended, in stages, to cover all the districts of the country. A large amount of information collected as a part of DISE is made available at the level of individual schools, as well as in aggregated form at the district, State and national levels.

Access to higher education



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