The Census 2001 provisional reports indicate that India has made significant progress in the field of literacy during the decade since the previous census in 1991.The literacy rate in 2001 has been recorded at 64.84% as against 52.21% in 1991.The 12.63 percentage points increase in the literacy rate during the period is the highest increase in any decade.Also for the first time there is a decline in the absolute number of non-literates during the past 10 years.The total number of non literates has come down from 328 million in 1991 to 304 million in 2001.During 1991-2000, the population in 7+ age group increased by 176 millions while 201 million additional persons became literate during that period.Out of 864 million people above the age of 7 years, 560 million are now literates.Three-fourths of our male population and more than half of the female population are literate.This indeed is an encouraging indicator for us to speed up our march towards the goal of achieving a sustainable threshold literacy rate of 75% by 2007.  

The Census 2001 provisional figures also indicate that the efforts of the nation during the past decade to remove the scourge of illiteracy have not gone in vain.The eradication of illiteracy from a vast country like India beset by several social and economic hurdles is not an easy task.Realising this the National Literacy Mission was set up on 5th May,1988 to impart a new sense of urgency and seriousness to adult education.After the success of the areas specific,time bound, voluntary based campaign approach first in Kottayam city and then in Ernakulum district in Kerala in 1990,the National Literacy Mission had accepted the literacy campaigns as the dominant strategy for eradication of illiteracy. 

Out of 600 districts in the country,597 districts have already been covered under Total Literacy Campaigns.The number of continuing education districts is 328.The creditable performance of the National Literacy Mission received international recognition when it was awarded the UNESCO Noma Literacy Prize for 1999.The International Jury while selecting NLM for the prize recognised its initiation of the Total Literacy Campaigns and also its efforts in galvanising activities towards integration, conservation of the environment,promotion of women's equality,and the preservation of family customs and traditions.The Jury also appreciated the training imparted by NLM,the teaching learning material produced by it and the awareness created by it for the demand for raising both the quality and quantity of primary education.

The Bureau of Adult Education and National Literacy Mission under the Department of School Education and Literacy of the Ministry of Human Resource Development functions as the Secretariat of the National Literacy Mission Authority.The General Council of the NLMA is headed by the Minister of Human Resource Development and the Executive Council is headed by the Secretary (Elementary Education and Literacy).The Directorate of Adult Education provides necessary technical and resource support to the NLMA.

The National Literacy Mission was revitalised with the approval of the Union Government on 30th September, 1999.The Mission's goal is to attain total literacy i.e. a sustainable threshold literacy rate of 75% by 2007.The Mission seeks to achieve this by imparting functional literacy to non-literates in the 15-35 age group.To tackle the problem of residual illiteracy,now it has been decided to adopt an integrated approach to Total Literacy Campaigns and Post Literacy Programme. This means the basic literacy campaigns and post literacy programmes will be implemented under one literacy project called 'Literacy Campaigns an Operation Restoration' to achieve continuity,efficiency and convergence and to minimise unnecessary time lag between the two.Post literacy programmes are treated only as a preparatory phase for launching Continuing Education with the ultimate aim of creating a learning society.

In order to promote decentralization,the State Literacy Mission Authorities have been given the authority to sanction continuing education projects to Districts and literacy related projects to voluntary agencies in their States.

The scheme of Jan Shikshan Sansthan or Institute of People's Education ,previously known as the Scheme of Shramik Vidyapeeth was initially evolved as a non-formal continuing education programme to respond to the educational and vocational training needs of adults and young people living in urban and industrial areas and for persons who had migrated from rural to urban settings.Now the Institutes' activities have been enlarged and infrastructure strengthened to enable them to function as district level repositories of vocational and technical skills in both urban and rural areas.At present there are 221 Jan Shikshan Sansthans in the India.

Ever since its inception the National Literacy Mission has taken measures to strengthen its partnership with NGOs and to evolve both institutional and informal mechanisms to give voluntary organisations active promotional role in the literacy movement.Now under the scheme of Support to NGOs they are encouraged and provided with financial assistance to run post literacy and continuing education programmes in well defined areas.

In order to revitalise,re-energise and expand the role of State Resource Centres,not only their number is being increased but also their infrastructure and resource facilities are being strengthened to enable them to play the role of catalytic agents in adult education.There are 25 State Resource Centres working across the country.They are mainly responsible for organising training programmes for literacy functionaries in the State and to prepare literacy material in local languages.

The Directorate of Adult Education ,a sub-ordinate office of the Department of School Education and Literacy has been entrusted with the task of monitoring and evaluating the various literacy programmes being launched under the aegis of the National Literacy Mission.It also provides technical and resource support to the NLM including media support to enable it to achieve its objectives.

The National Literacy Mission is laying great stress on vigorous monitoring and systematic evaluation of adult education programmes launched under its aegis in the country.It has developed and circulated guidelines for concurrent and final evaluation of the Total Literacy Campaigns and Post Literacy Programmes. A comprehensive set of guidelines on continuing education have also been prepared.So far about 424 Total Literacy Campaign districts and 176 Post Literacy districts have been evaluated by the external evaluation agencies.So far 32 districts have been externally evaluated during continuing education phase.It is hoped that the new approach of evaluating literacy campaigns and Continuing Education Schemes will ensure complete transparency and enhance the credibility of the results and impact assessments.