Adult Education aims at extending educational options to those adults, who have lost the opportunity and have crossed the age of formal education, but now feel a need for learning of any type, including literacy, basic education equivalency, skill development (Vocational Education) and Continuing Education. With the objective of promoting adult education, a series of programmes were introduced since the First Five Year Plan, the most prominent being the National Literacy Mission (NLM), launched in 1988 to impart functional literacy to non-literates in the age group of 15-35 years in a time bound manner. By the end of the 10th Plan period, NLM had made 127.45 million persons literate of which 60% were females 23% belonged to Scheduled Castes (SCs) and 12% to Scheduled Tribes (STs).

Census 2011 recorded overall literacy rate in India at 72.98% (male: 80.88%, female: 64.63%) against census 2001 with literacy rate of 64.84% (Male:75.26% and Female: 53.67%).

A centrally sponsored scheme ‘Saakshar Bharat’ was implemented during 2009-10 to 2017-18 to raise literacy rate to 80%, reduce gender gap to 10% and minimize regional and social disparities, with focus on Women, SCs, STs, Minorities and other disadvantaged groups. All those districts that had female literacy rate below 50% as per census 2001 including Left Wing Extremism affected districts, irrespective of their literacy level, were covered under the scheme. The principal target was to impart functional literacy to 70 million non-literates including 60 million women. The scheme covered 404 districts in 26 States and 1 Union Territory covering about 1.64 lakh Gram Panchayats.

During the implementation of Saakshar Bharat scheme, against the overall target of making 7 crore adult non-literates as literates, around 7.64 crore learners, having passed the biannual Basic Literacy Assessment Tests conducted by National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) between August, 2010 to March, 2018, were certified as literates.

Adult Education Bureau has its office housed at Department of School Education & Literacy, Ministry of Education, Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi. Adult Education Bureau is divided into six sections and every section has its own mandate of work and responsibilities.

National Literacy Mission Authority (NLMA) - NLMA is responsible to design, develop and implement Adult Education Programme in the country. It formulates and exercises policy and planning, developmental and promotional activities, operational functions, technology demonstration, leadership training, resource development, research & development, monitoring & evaluation in the country. NLMA consists of two bodies: (i) Governing Council headed by Hon’ble Education Minister and (ii) Executive Committee of NLMA is headed by Secretary (SE&L). Joint Secretary (Adult Education) is the Member Secretary of the Committee.

Directorate of Adult Education - Directorate of Adult Education (DAE) is the subordinate office under the Department of School Education & Literacy, Ministry of Education, Government of India. It functions to facilitate the implementation of adult education programmes in the country. It provides professional, academic and technical guidance for effective implementation of programmes launched under the aegis of National Literacy Mission Authority and monitors progress of the programmes implemented in the field through State Governments and other agencies.

Adult Education and National Education Policy-2020: National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 was launched on 29.07.2020. It has recommended that “Strong and innovative government initiatives for adult education - in particular, to facilitate community involvement and the smooth and beneficial integration of technology - will be affected as soon as possible to expedite this all-important aim of achieving 100% literacy”. NEP-2020 has also recommended for taking up five components of Adult Education i.e. (a) foundational literacy and numeracy; (b) critical life skills (including financial literacy, digital literacy, commercial skills, health care and awareness, child care and education, and family welfare); (c) vocational skills development (with a view towards obtaining local employment); (d) basic education (including preparatory, middle, and secondary stage equivalency); and (e) continuing education (including engaging holistic adult education courses in arts, sciences, technology, culture, sports, and recreation, as well as other topics of interest or use to local learners, such as more advanced material on critical life skills).

Padhna Likhna Abhiyan (PLA) – A centrally sponsored scheme of Adult Education, Padhna Likhna Abhiyan (PLA) was approved on 25.04.2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic with a financial outlay of Rs.142.61 crore including central share of Rs.95.25 crore to implement in all 36 States/UTs in both urban and rural areas in the country.

The main objective of PLA was to impart Functional Literacy to 57 lakh non-literates of 15 years and above age group in the country during F.Y. 2020-21. However, due to COVID-19 pandemic situation, initially the scheme was suspended by Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance. Thereafter, in response to our request, the suspension of PLA scheme was revoked during August 2020 by the Department of Expenditure (DoE), Ministry of Finance (MoF) allowing us to run the Scheme upto 31.03.2021. The funds were released under the Scheme during December 2020 to February 2021 to 33 States/UTs other than Goa, Maharashtra and West Bengal as no proposal was submitted by these 3 States. Considering the Covid-19 pandemic situation in the country, implementation of this PLA scheme has been extended by the Department of Expenditure till 31st March, 2022 within the approved budgetary outlay.

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