KATHMANDU, Nov 28: In what experts consider the failure of the government´s literacy program, only 11.8 percent of the population above five years of age has become literate in the last decade despite the huge investment of over Rs 265 billion.
The National Census 2011 report published on Monday has put the literacy rate of the country at 65.9 percent for the total population of 23.9 million of those above five. The literacy growth rate has been a snailpace 1.18 percent annually, from 54.1 percent in 2001.
The government had allocated Rs 26.5 billion per year on average for the literacy drive from fiscal years 2001/02 to 2011/12.
Education experts have pointed out that the government´s inability to relate literacy to an individual´s changed lifestyle has led to the failure.
“The public need to become literate has changed over the years. People now want to be literate to use mobile phones. Why would a person join literacy class if he cannot learn the things he needs to learn,” said education expert Vidya Nath Koirala, adding “The investment is huge when compared with the outcome, but the government has not yet evaluated its error.”
He added that lack of monitoring mechanisms to check fake and repeat students in informal education classes have also caused the wastage of billions.
Around 96 percent of the contribution to the current literacy figure comprises school-goers. “Of the total literacy rate, 4.2 percent gained from informal education,” the latest report states.
Meanwhile, government officials have defended the census findings, saying the decadal growth rate in literacy was equal in both the highest and lowest performing districts.
“Kathmandu and Rautahat districts recorded respectively 9.1 and 9.2 percent literacy growth in a decade, which indicates that we have prioritized the people of all areas equally,” said Roj Nath Pandey, spokesperson of the Ministry of Education.
The literacy rate of Kathmandu has increased to 86.3 from 77.2 percent in 10 years. Similarly, Rautahat has been upgraded to 41.7 percent from 32.5 percent registered in 2001.
As per the government´s declared objective of making the country totally literate by 2015, Bishnu Prasad Mishra, under-secretary in charge of the Non-Formal Education Center, said another multi-billion rupee literacy campaign of the government would come into effective from January 14, to achieve its goal in two years.
Meanwhile, Chairman of Private and Boarding Schools Organization Nepal (PABSON) Baburam Pokharel has criticized the government, saying total literacy can be achieved only in the next 35 years if we move at the current rate.