Tripura’s unassuming chief minister Manik Sarkar announced that the tiny northeast Indian state is India’s most literate state. At 94.65 percent (based on final assessments by all districts), literacy rate of the state surged past 93.91-percent literate Kerala.
“Our goal is to 100 percent literacy (and) we would attain that very soon,” Sarkar said at a function held to mark the International Literacy Day.
So what was it that worked for a state that was 12th in the literacy list of 2001 census and fourth in 2011, as Sarkar mentioned? The state’s focus on the social sector, to believe its ministers and officials.
As the millennium turned, and most states joined the ‘development’ or have the high Gross Domestic Product (GDP) race, Tripura silently went on to ensure every child in the state goes to school. The programme did not stop at the children; it ensured that people who were left out of the fold of formal education, and were too old to join it again, would be provided education to improve quality of their lives.
The programmes were not just implemented to make the state literate but as long-term education programmes to ensure all citizens have a certain basic minimum level of education, Tripura’s higher education, food and information and cultural affairs minister Bhanu Lal Saha said. Education, as Saha stressed, is a necessary tool to empower people, as “only an educated society can produce a good civil society”.
Tripura has 45 blocks and 23 subdivisions that are served by 68 government-run schools and 30-40 privat schools.
Among projects implemented by the state government to increase literacy in the state are:
* Total literacy drive for people aged between 15 and 50 who have lost the chance of entering formal education fold. A special programme – titled improved pace and content learning (IPCL) – has been designed to provide basic education to such people.
* 10,000 aaganwadi centres have 100 percent enrolment.
* Policy of no examination till class VIII to children people from dropping out.
* Midday meals in all schools with an eclectic menu for all days of the week to attract more students.
* No tuition fee in government colleges.
The holistic education system, implemented with equal interest in Agartala, remote areas and the tribal autonomic areas, makes sure that people in Tripura do not just become literate but educated, officials emphasised. One pointer to the government’s interest in education is the near-total absence of child labour in Tripura.
Education also serves the larger purpose of improving the status of society. The plan for 100 percent literacy is just the byproduct of this larger vision that Tripura government has for the state, according to officials.