India has a long way to go in education: PM

New Delhi, Aug 3 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday said India has a ‘long way to go’ in spreading literacy, adding that paucity of funds will not be allowed to hamper the spread of education in the country.

‘We still have a very long way to go (in spreading education),’ Manmohan Singh said, referring to ‘significant gains’ India has made in the field.

‘According to UNESCO’s Global Monitoring Report 2006, out of 771 million illiterates in the world, 268 million are estimated to be residing in our country, which accounts for nearly one-third of the world’s non-literates,’ he said.

The prime minister was speaking at a lecture of his ‘school friend’ and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen organised by Pratichi Trust, Asian Development Research Institute and the National Literacy Mission.

‘It is our government’s commitment that paucity of funds will not be allowed to limit the spread of literacy and education in our country. It is on the foundation of this fiscal commitment and political resolve that we went to parliament and added a new fundamental right to our constitution – the Right to Education,’ the prime minister said.

Even though India’s GDP has recorded a very high growth rate in the recent past, the inferior literacy status of the country has contributed to the lowering of its position in the UNDP’s Human Development Index.

Manmohan Singh said the government has taken a series of important steps in the past six years ‘to make the light of literacy and education shine for every child, every citizen – irrespective of gender, caste or religion’.

He lamented that even at the end of the first decade of the knowledge century, ‘a quarter to a third of our people remain illiterate’.

‘It is even more unfortunate that a strong gender bias against women persists in the spread of literacy,’ he said, adding that to make India ‘fully literate and to eliminate the gender bias in literacy must be our immediate priority goals’.

Sen’s talk focused on ‘The Centrality of Literacy’. He said the schooling could be deeply influential in the identity of a person and the lack of school education could make a person susceptible to violence.

The Nobel laureate said that basic education ‘plays a role in tackling health problems in general and epidemics in particular’.

‘Women’s education helps in reducing infant mortality rate and illiteracy can muzzle political voice and ability to understand one’s legal rights,’ he said.

Sen said in rapidly changing societies like India and China, discussion on smoking could be introduced in school curriculum and added that ‘India can be a pioneer in this regard’.

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