Literacy is at the heart of basic education for all human capabilities. Basic literacy is essential for eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy. Literacy is a force multiplier for all actions of social development.

National Literacy Mission

On 5th May, 1988 a mission mode programme for promoting adult literacy was launched as National Literacy Mission (NLM) countrywide to impart functional literacy to non-literates in the country in the age group of 15-35 years in a time bound manner. The then ongoing schemes of National Literacy Mission were concluded in the month of September, 2009 on account of launch of new variant of the scheme under the name of Saakshar Bharat (Literate India) with effect from September, 2009.

Saakshar Bharat

Recognizing that literacy is a force multiplier for all actions of social development, the Saakshar Bharat programme was launched as the national adult education programme of India on 8th September 2009, the ‘International Literacy Day’, and was extended till 31st March, 2018. The programme aimed at achieving 80% national literacy level and reducing the gender gap (between male and female) of literacy to the level of 10 percent points.

Districts covered

The districts that had adult female literacy rate of 50 per cent or below, as per 2001 Census, were made eligible for coverage under the Saakshar Bharat programme. In addition, all districts affected by extremist violence, irrespective of their adult female literacy rate, were also eligible for coverage under the programme. Accordingly, a total 410 districts including 35 Left Wing Extremism Affected districts were identified as eligible for coverage under the programme. Out of 410 districts eligible for coverage under the Saakshar Bharat programme, 404 districts in 26 States and 1 Union Territory covering about 1.64 lakh Gram Panchayats (cluster of Revenue Villages) were covered.



The beneficiaries under the programme were primarily women belonging to the deprived sections of the society. The principal target was to impart Functional Literacy to 70 million non-literates (SCs-14 Million, STs-8 Million, Muslims-12 Million and others-36 million) including 60 million women.

Teaching Learning Activities

Basic Literacy implies achievement of self-reliance in Reading, Writing and Arithmetic (Numeracy) and becoming aware of the causes of the one’s deprivation. The programme entailed identification of non-literates through a survey, area-wise mapping of their learning needs and imparting them instructor-based teaching of about 300 hrs spread over 3 months or beyond depending on motivation of the learners and local conditions. A volunteer acted as a mobiliser, trainer and teacher and was responsible for imparting literacy to, on an average 8-10 learners.

Assessment and Certification

Scientific Assessment and Certification of the competency levels of adults was a unique innovation introduced for the first time in the history of literacy movement in India. Only an adult, who conformed to prescribed competency levels in reading, writing and numeracy, was certified as literate. Assessments were conducted through a system developed by the National Literacy Mission Authority (NLMA) in consultation with the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS).

Learners were assessed in reading, writing and arithmetic skills. Assessments were also designed to gauge the learner’s general awareness, including that of social issues. Learners who scored 40% marks in all three components were declared successful and given a certificate jointly by NLMA and NIOS. Candidates who were not able to succeed were given further chances to improve the grade in the skills in which they had not been successful. This type of assessment improved confidence in neo-literates and opened up avenues for them. This also lent robustness and credibility to the programme. Bi-annual assessments were conducted every year on pre-decided dates in the month of August and March.


Under this programme, around 7.64 crore adult learners were certified as literate. The assessment-wise details of learners who appeared in the assessment tests and got certified are as under:

S. No. Assessment Learners Appeared Learners Successful
Female Male Total Female Male Total
1. Ph-1 20th Aug 2010 324317 194068 518385 212303 122202 334505
2. Ph-II 6th Mar 2011 3568686 789924 4358610 2517581 585284 3102865
3. Ph-III 20th Aug 2011 3020576 1587763 4608339 2057992 1125147 3183139
4. Ph-IV 18th Mar 2012 7629075 3068482 10697557 5801030 2219921 8020951
5. Ph-V 26th Aug 2012 2678179 1045924 3724103 1935470 764145 2699615
6. Ph-VI 17th Mar 2013 3886570 1500330 5386900 2836790 1122309 3959099
7. Ph-VII 25th Aug 2013 3268074 1361269 4629343 2412333 1023497 3435830
8. Ph-VIII 9th Mar 2014 3772853 1512454 5285307 2771483 1114101 3885584
9. Ph-IX 24th Aug 2014 2691253 1086813 3778066 1987802 809638 2797440
10. Ph-X 15th Mar 2015 4914774 1995501 6910275 3679595 1471604 5151199
11. Ph-XI 23rd Aug 2015 7628191 3391067 11019258 5638221 2457799 8096020
12. Ph-XII 20th Mar 2016 6176334 2705906 8882240 4680533 2034398 6714931
13. Ph-XIII 21st Aug 2016 6376018 3083292 9459310 5051595 2417979 7469574
14. Ph-XIV 19th Mar 2017 6938470 3021755 9960225 5654922 2503459 8158381
15. Ph-XV Aug 2017 4964141 2085432 7049573 4011041 1691367 5702408
16. Ph-XVI Mar 2018 3130301 1369843 4500144 2548606 1130508 3679114
  Total 70967812 29799823 100767635 53797297 22593358 76390655


A new scheme of Adult Education “Padhna Likhna Abhiyan” is under consideration of the Government.