In a country like India, which largely depends on its informal economy, literacy and non-formal education are the two key areas to boost the country’s economic growth. Especially, women from disadvantaged population groups and rural areas can lead to the expansion of the country’s labour market by learning basic skills, said UNESCO representative Werner Mauch. Werner Mauch, Team Leader, Monitoring and Assessment of Lifelong Learning, UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, told Samrat Sharma of Financial Express Online in an interview that India has to further increase efforts to reach the rural population for holistic growth. Here are the excerpts from the interview:
How does India fare among other emerging markets?
From the perspective of adult learning and education, India represents a good example for diversity, which is often of advantage in the long run, and its successes, e.g. with regard to the application of ICTs are well respected. Training women for supporting their standing on the labour market will be of prior concern to that end.
What are the policy recommendations that can holistically support India’s growth?
Supporting women, especially from disadvantaged population groups and in rural areas, with regard to basic skills as well as concerning their possibilities on the labour market, are a key instrument here. Adult learning and education are key instruments for sustainable development but still, need further support.
Is India stepping up the ladder of overall growth?
India has important experiences with addressing the adult literacy situation through various means. Literacy for women has been a successful area where also NGOs such as NIRANTAR have shown how to motivate women to use literacy as the starter for various other changes in their social situation.
Considering the population growth, the informal economy can be seen as part of a solution with regard to production and training, for which literacy remains the key basis and non-formal education approaches are a promising part of the provision.
Do you think that policy decisions in India affect a very small segment of people and the rural heartland is still deprived of many basic amenities?
Adult learning and education in rural areas has been on the agenda of the Indian government for quite some time. Our data for the Global Report on Adult Learning and Education shows us that participation rates among adults in educational programmes have increased and so have financial investments in this area. However, India has to further increase efforts to reach the rural populations.
Let me give you an example: While the internet penetration in urban India was 65% in 2017, it was only 20% in rural India. Providing high-speed internet to rural areas must be a priority to enable all to benefit from the full potential of Information and Communication technologies in their learning efforts.