Room to Read India's Literacy Program is the country's only children’s education program that teaches both literacy skills and reading habits. Our Girls’ Education Program supports girls to finish secondary school and works with government stakeholders to advocate for girls' education.
India has 266 million people who cannot read, accounting for one-third of the world’s illiterate population. Despite the Right to Education Act passed in 2009, that mandates free and compulsory education to all children ages 6–14 years, inadequate facilities, lack of access to quality education, seasonal migrations and gender biases have led to low learning levels and subsequent high dropout rates.
In primary grades, 4.34 percent of children drop out with this number increasing to as high as 17.86 percent by secondary school. In 2018, UNICEF estimated that 8.1 million children were not enrolled in school, the majority belonging to disadvantaged groups. If drastic measures are not taken to reverse this trend, it is estimated that this number will continue to rise, especially in historically under-resourced communities.
Another challenge is India’s linguistic diversity. Twenty-three official languages and more than 700 unofficial languages and dialects are spoken across the country. Most classrooms in India are multilingual in nature and children speak many languages, frequently differing from the official language of instruction. There is a huge dearth of children’s literature and educational resources in most of these official and unofficial languages.
Girls also face unique obstacles to their education both inside and outside of school. During the last couple of decades, a number of policy measures have been taken to promote girls’ education, yet gender disparities in education persist. Around 39 percent of adolescent girls ages 15–18 are not attending any educational institution, and around two thirds are engaged in household activities or child labor. Early marriage also plays a large role in keeping girls out of secondary school. One in every three child brides in the world is a girl in India.