What Are the Causes of Illiteracy in India?

Issues in the educational system, unequal opportunities for poor versus wealthy children, high dropout rates, lack of properly trained educators and poverty are all contributors to the illiteracy problems in India. India is home to 287 million illiterate adults, which is roughly the size of the entire U.S. population.

There is a huge disparity in the opportunities for children to learn in India based on their social status. Poor children often have fewer opportunities to learn and less incentive to go to school. Poor schools are understaffed and may have one teacher to 60 students, and many of the teachers are barely qualified to teach. Parateachers often teach basic literacy lessons in the slums of India. Those who are qualified sometimes do not even show up for work. In 2012, attendance among teachers was only at an average of 78 percent. Wealthier students receive better educational opportunities in private schools.

Poor schools are often ill equipped. In poor regions, only 65 percent of schools have toilets. Many have no drinking water. Journeys to school puts girls at risk of abduction and sexual violence, which is common in India.

The dropout rate among Indians is high. This is often due to family obligations and early marriage. By secondary school, less than half of the students enrolled for primary school remain in class.