One of the major social problem of India is illiteracy. More than one quarter of adult world population i.e. 889 million is illiterate. Also more than 1000 million children in the developing countries are not attending the schools. The number of illiterates' is likely to swell in the near future. 1990 was considered as the International Literacy Year by the United Nations General Assembly. This was done so to focus the world attention on the problem and to intensify the efforts to spread education.
If we see the figures, we will notice that although the percentage of Illiterates in adult population in the world is steadily declining, the absolute number of illiterates continues to increase as a result of global population growth. Women are more seriously affected. They constitute 60% of all adult illiterates and it has been calculated that 98% of the world's illiterates live in poor and developing countries. So there is a great link between the developing countries and illiteracy. In underdeveloped countries and developing countries, the problem of illiteracy is on highest peak. In some of recent studies it has been seen that in the families where the mother is literate the incidents of child death and mal-nutrition are very less. Similarly agricultural production among poor farmers having some year's of schoolings is much higher.
Many developing countries have been trying to expand primary education, but they were not successful because of some economic and financial problems. In some countries even 50% of the adults can read and write. Tanzania, Tobaga and Trinidad are a few countries, where adult literacy range over 50%. On the other hand there are some countries like Nigeria, Somalia and Yeman where less than 20% adults are literate. According to an estimate in France 15% of adults are functionally illiterate. The case of Federal Republic of Germany is not very different where number of functionally illiterates ranges between 500,000 and 3 million. Even USA has at least 13 million functionally illiterate adults. Functional illiteracy affects all the sections of society, but strikes harder among poorer section of society.
Researches and studies have revealed that economic cost of illiteracy to society is vast. In Canada the cost of illiteracy to business amounts to $ 3 billion per year. Indirect cost i.e. increased work accidents, lost productivity, higher unemployment and training needs amount over $ 7 billion per year.
But now what we must think of is the eradication of the global problem. Some countries have already started massive efforts. China has announced plans for an intensive five year plan to provide instruction to 80 million illiterates. India has prepared an ambitious plan to launch a campaign to help 80 million adults to become literate. New initiatives will be launched for promoting basic literacy for both children and adults. Special literature will be brought out. Various exhibitions will be organized. Also some voluntary agencies, representatives of the teachers and student bodies are planning to contribute and make the campaign a success. The UNESCO will launch its own plan of action aimed at helping member states drastically cut illiteracy by the year 2000.
According to a research done it has been found that in some societies girl education is not considered good. Girls are not given education. Such traditions are based on wrong notion and must be abolished.
It is particularly important to provide education to women and girls as the saying goes, "If you educate a man, you educate one person, but if you educate a -woman, you educate a whole family." Removal of illiteracy is our main aim today and observing the International Literacy Year has helped and supported such efforts as to approach the world illiterates.