“Women have taken literacy more seriously than men,” says Prof. Madhav, Research Department, Department of Social Work, Roshni Nilaya. The rate of change of literacy rates among women is higher than that among men in the district, he said, after looking at the data.

According to the Census of India 2011 Provisional Population Totals, (ranking of districts by literacy rate and sex: 2011), Dakshina Kannada district ranks first in Karnataka with a literacy rate of 88.62 per cent (with 93.31 per cent literacy among men and 84.04 per cent literacy among women). In 2001, 83.35 per cent of the people in the district were literate (with 89.70 per cent among men and 77.21 per cent among women).

However, he said it would be interesting to see the difference in literacy rates among women in urban and rural areas of the district and the causes for that difference.

Geographically, the district can be divided into three belts. Mangalore is on the coastal belt, where people have access to educational institutions, industry, and business houses. Puttur and Bantwal are on the middle belt, where agricultural activity dominates. In the third belt are Belthangady and Sullia, where the plantations of commercial crops are grown. “One cannot compare a woman working in a plantation in Belthangady with a woman in Mangalore,” said Madhav.

Observers mention various factors for the increase in literacy in the district, including a history of educational institutions, access to educational institutions, and the campaign for literacy of the early 1990s. However, researchers said while drawing conclusions on such issues, one must look closely at the method adopted to collect the data.

Madhav, who had been part of the independent teams that had evaluated government literacy programmes, said first there was a need for conceptual clarity in analysing such issues. “How exactly does one define literacy? Does it mean the ability to read and write? Sometimes, a person who is able to sign is considered literate. This is the problem with the quality of data,” he said.

Second, language was extremely important in collecting information. Data should be gathered directly from the primary source. But in case of inter-State gathering of data, the data collector had to use an intermediary, which was not ideal. Third, the instrument (tool for collecting data) must be scientifically correct. “Even if the sample size is small, it is fine, provided the study is systematically carried out,” he said.

Sheena Shetty, Director, Jana Shikshana Trust (an NGO), said one of the reasons for the increasing literacy rates in the district was the contribution of the literacy campaign of 1990-91. Three lakh people directly or indirectly benefited from the Total Literacy Campaign (TLC). It was a success because of local participation, he said. Besides, the district had had a history of educational institutions.

G. Giridhar Prabhu, an industrialist, said: “We are a success story in literacy”. The reason literacy in the district is not 100 per cent is possibly due to people who are in their 50s and 60s, who may not have had access to schools 50 years ago. Literacy requires infrastructure availability and access to it, he said. Another reason is motivation by parents.

Keywords: literacy rate

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