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The need for literacy

The need for literacy

If you’re reading this, you are obviously literate – probably in more than one language. Sometimes we take literacy for granted, but can you imagine what it would be like to not be able to read and write? To struggle to find your way in a new place because you can’t use the road signs? To not be able to send a text message on your mobile? To need to ask someone else to fill in a form for you?

Learning to read and write can make a big difference in people’s lives, at multiple levels:
  • Boosting self confidence. Illiterate people often experience a degree of shame in being ‘angootha chaap’, and are vulnerable to exploitation. Literacy often helps people feel more confident in themselves, more able to take initiative to improve their lives.
  • Opening opportunities for further education. Adults who have missed out on schooling can enrol themselves in NIOS to pursue education at a Grade 5, 8, 10 and 12 level. Learning basic literacy is the first step on this educational ladder. Similarly, children who struggle to read and write are more likely to drop out of school early, whereas learning literacy enables them to get much more out of school.
  • Opening job opportunities. Uneducated people often struggle to find regular, reasonably paid work. Economically, there is a strong positive correlation between literacy and income level, with literate people earning an estimated 40-70% more than their illiterate counterparts.
  • Being able to help their kids. Poverty is an inter-generational cycle because illiterate, impoverished parents are often unable to provide their children with a good education. Parents who can read and write are more likely to realise the importance of education, more able to send their kids to school rather than work, and also more able to help their children with schoolwork.
  • Health: Numerous studies have demonstrated the significant positive effects of literacy on public health and lowering infant mortality. In developing countries, a child born to a literate mother is 50% more likely to survive past age 5, relative to a child born to an illiterate mother. Literate women also have lower fertility rates.
  • Political rights: Everyone has the right to participate in democratic politics, but illiteracy makes it much harder to enjoy this right. Literate people are generally more able to access information about current events, make up their own mind, and engage in the political process. Literate people are also more likely to be able to access the government services to which they’re entitled.

These benefits to individuals, when translated to the national scale, mean a stronger economy, more robust democracy, better public health and a lower population growth rate.