• Government of Indio has taken determined steps to correct the rural— urban imbalance in literacy rates which affect the overall development of the economy as well as the country as a whole.
  • The Ministry of Human Resource Development of Government of India works through two departments:
  1. Department of School Education and Literacy
  2. Department of Higher Education.
  • And since education is a subject of Concurrent List, therefore Central Government and State Governments work together for the betterment of education sector.

I. Status of Education in India (Rural vs. Urban)

  • As per Census 2011, literacy rate in rural areas was around 68 per cent while it was 84 per cent in urban areas. Furthermore, only 59 per cent of rural women were estimated to be literate as compared to nearly 80 per cent urban women being literate in 2011.
  • Some interesting findings have been thrown up by the survey on 'Social Consumption: Education' during the National Sample Survey (NSS) 71st Round, January to June 2014, conducted by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI).
  • It has brought to light several ground level realities of education in rural India vis a vis urban India which are of relevance to a policy maker.

Access to Computer and Internet (NSS 71st Round)

  • The Survey showed that nearly 6 per cent of rural households and 29 percent of urban households possessed a computer. Among households with at least one member of age 14 years and above, nearly 16 per cent among rural households had internet access as compared to 49 per cent urban households. Among persons of age 14-29 years, nearly 18 per cent in rural areas and 49 per cent in urban areas were able to operate a computer.

U-DISE (2016-17) Report

  • Some of the highlights of NSS 71st Round may not appear to be encouraging, however, going by the figures stated in the last U-DISE (2016-17). Report brought out by M/o Human Resource Development, there has been a major thrust on providing rural school infrastructure and stepping up school enrolments in rural areas through various schemes and interventions.
  • As per U-DISE 2016-17, total number of schools in India were 15.3 lakhs out of which nearly 12.97 lakh schools were in rural areas. Total enrolment in schools was 25.13 crore out of which 18.02 crore was enrolment of students from rural areas. This data pertains to all the schools from Class I to Class XII across the country.
  • Therefore, rural areas account for 84.46 per cent of total schools in India and 71.72 per cent of total; student enrolment in India. In addition, 73.04 per cent teachers are placed in rural locations.

The National Achievement Survey 2017

  • The National Achievement Survey 2017 (NAS 2017) of Ministry of Human Resource Development, GoI is amongst the largest surveys conducted in the world. It tried to assess the attainment of competency-based learning outcomes of 2.2 million students from 1,10,000 schools across 701 districts in all 36 States/UTs. NAS 2017 has thrown interesting light on learning outcomes for rural vs urban student populations.
  • A surprise finding of NAS 2017 with respect to learning outcomes in Rural vs Urban areas is that the learning outcomes are similar in rural and urban school going population and in fact, even higher for rural students over urban ones for class 8th in Mathematics, Science and Social Science subjects.
  • This has, to some extent, broken the myth that rural students are laggards as compared to urban ones. Some of the concerns which have been thrown up by various studies taken up by both public and private institutions include not only availability (infrastructure like schools/colleges etc.) but also accessibility (distance), quality (learning outcomes), education of girl child, the quality of teaching, skills education among others.

II. Government Initiatives for Rural Areas

  • Expansion of Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas, pan-India expansion of Samagra Siksha and voluminous increase in budgetary allocations, expansion of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas, improvements in quality of Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Unnat Bharat Abhiyan, Swachhta Abhiyan, Massive Online Courses, expansion of Eklavya Model Residential School Scheme, digital initiatives and promoting several other education related interventions by the states arc some of important efforts of the Government for the development of rural education.
  • While some of the programmes/schemes/projects are specific to rural areas; expansion of infrastructure and quality improvement of teachers in rural areas are also likely to receive a major thrust under flagship programmes like Samagra Shiksha.

Digital Initiatives

  • The digital initiatives can become a game changer for rural areas since they revolutionise the delivery mechanisms for education in the country.
  • They have a special role to play for imparting quick, meaningful and quality education to students in far flung and rural areas as well as in-situ training of teachers.
  • The recent launch of Operation Digital Board aims to introduce digital boards all over the country in government and government-aided schools for nearly 1.5 lakh Secondary/Sr. Secondary schools. Similarly, UGC proposes to take up 300 universities and about 10,000 colleges in the first phase covering 2 lakh classrooms.
  • e-PATHSHALA : NCERT books are now available in digital version for free for anybody. Approximately 15 lakh students have downloaded e-Pathshala app. As on 26 February, 2019, visits to e-Pathshala crossed 4.0 cr. The App enjoys a rating of 4 out of 5 on Google play store and 4.5 out of 5 on Windows store.
  • Diksha is a digital platform for teachers to enable capacity building of all categories of teachers. It will help over 50 lakh teachers in improving the quality of education.
  • MOOCs on SWAYAM Platform: It is an integrated platform for offering online courses and covering school (9th to 12th) to Postgraduate Level. Till July 2019, 2769 MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have been offered on SWAYAM, wherein about 1.02 crore students have enrolled in various courses till date. The online courses are being used not only by the students but also by the teachers and non-student learners, in the form of lifelong learning.
  • SWAYAM PRABHA (Kishore Manch) DTH-TV Channels have been launched for transmission of educational e-contents through 52 National Channels i.e. SWAYAM PRABHA DTH-TV.
  • National Digital Library of India (NDL) is a project to develop a framework of virtual repository of learning resources with a single-window search facility. There are more than 5 crore digital resources available through the NDL. More than 50 lakh students have registered themselves in the NDL, with about 20 lakhs active users.


  • National Initiative for School Heads and Teachers Holistic Advancement (NISHTHA) has been launched very recently to build capacities of 42 lakh elementary school level teachers, principals, block resource centre coordinators and cluster resource centre coordinators. The basic objective of 'NISHTHA' Programme is to motivate and equip teachers to encourage and foster critical thinking in students.
  • Teachers will get awareness and develop their skills on various aspects related to Learning Outcomes, Competency Based Learning and Testing, Learner centred Pedagogy, School Safety and Security, Personal-social qualities, Inclusive Education, ICT in teaching-learning including Artificial Intelligence, Health and well-being including yoga, initiatives in school education including library, eco club, youth club, kitchen garden, school leadership qualities, environmental concerns, pre-school, pre-vocational education and school based assessment in a joyful learning manner.

Vision of Draft New Education Policy (NEP) to Increase the Supply of Good Quality Teachers in Rural Areas:

  • To ensure that truly excellent students enter the teaching profession -especially from and in rural areas, the draft NEP envisions creating special merit scholarships which will also include guaranteed employment in their local areas upon successful completion of their four-year integrated B.Ed. programmes. To further encourage outstanding teachers to be deployed to rural areas, incentives like housing will be provided for teachers to take up teaching jobs in rural areas, especially in those rural areas with the greatest current teacher shortages.

Atal Tinkering Lab:

  • Atal Tinkering Lab (ATL) is a programme run by Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) under NITI Aayog to foster curiosity and innovative mindset in young students across India to encourage research and innovation in schools across the country. The vision of the initiative is 'To create one million children in India as Neoteric Innovators'.
  • As per latest data, 8878 schools have been selected for establishing ATLs, out of which 3020 have completed their compliance process and have been funded successfully. The selected schools are from both urban and rural areas. Around 117 Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas are also been selected for Atal Tinkering Labs.


  • The massive effort in recent times to revamp and expand the education system in India has far reaching implications. Not only is the thrust on infrastructure but also on quality and unique solutions through technology to improve delivery systems of education.
  • The student community has shown great enthusiasm for e-Resources for learning. This holds great promise for the future since as the internet penetration increases, the major beneficiaries of online courses and facilities will be the rural and far flung areas.

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