Extending Early Literacy and Numeracy Programs in India

Extending Early Literacy and Numeracy Programs in India
Posted on 30-08-2023

Fortifying the Foundations: Extending the Duration of Early Literacy and Numeracy Programs


A substantial portion of Indian children, more than half, lack the ability to read comprehensively or perform basic math tasks upon completing primary schooling. To combat this issue, the National Education Policy (NEP) of 2020 proposed the NIPUN Bharat Programme, a national initiative aimed at ensuring all students achieve foundational literacy and numeracy skills by the end of Grade 3.

Overview of the New Education Policy 2020

The NEP 2020, replacing the previous NPE 1986, is India's inaugural education policy of the 21st century. This policy, devised by a committee led by Dr. K Kasturirangan, introduces reforms for both school and higher education to cater to contemporary needs. The NEP rests on five key pillars: Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability, and Accountability. It aligns with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and aspires to transform India into a global knowledge superpower by fostering holistic, flexible, and multidisciplinary education.

NIPUN Bharat Programme under NEP 2020

Objective The primary goal is to establish an environment conducive to universal acquisition of foundational literacy and numeracy, ensuring that every child masters reading, writing, and numeracy by the conclusion of Grade 3, by the year 2026-27.

Focus Areas The program concentrates on several aspects, including enhancing access to and retention in early schooling, boosting teacher capabilities, developing high-quality learning materials, and monitoring individual progress in achieving learning objectives.

Implementation NIPUN Bharat will be executed by the Department of School Education and Literacy through a five-tier implementation structure at the National, State, District, Block, and School levels across all states and union territories. It falls under the umbrella of the centrally sponsored Samagra Shiksha scheme, which combines Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), and Teacher Education (TE).

Recent Adjustment in NIPUN Bharat Scope

The Ministry of Education recently decided to limit the scope of NIPUN Bharat to Grades 1-2, excluding Grade 3. This alteration aligns the program with the curriculum structure advocated by NEP 2020 and the National Curricular Framework (NCF) 2023. These documents propose a foundational learning stage encompassing three years of preschool and the initial two years of primary schooling, thus prompting the notion that NIPUN Bharat should culminate at Grade 2.

Importance of Prolonging Early Literacy and Numeracy Initiatives

  1. Addressing Anganwadi Centre Limitations Anganwadi centers primarily address health, immunization, and nutrition needs for 3–6-year-olds, with only a minority offering consistent and high-quality preschool education. Establishing a comprehensive 3–8-year educational framework remains a distant objective.

  2. Tackling Access Constraints for Ages 3-6 Around 68% of children aged three to six lack access to educational services in India. Most of these children hail from low-literacy backgrounds and encounter literacy for the first time in Grade 1.

  3. Bridging Language Gaps Approximately 35% of children spend their initial years of primary schooling grappling with the disparities between their home language and the school language. Retracting a program aiding Grade 3 learners seems counterproductive.

Recommendations for Strengthening Early Literacy and Numeracy

  1. Enhanced Support through Grades 1-5 Extending support to these grades would facilitate the establishment of solid language and numeracy foundations, as opposed to focusing solely on the three to eight-year age group, as suggested by NCF.

  2. Comprehensive Literacy Development The NEP and NCF's foundational stage does not encompass the complete array of literacy and numeracy skills, attitudes, and knowledge necessary for future learning by Grade 2's conclusion. Extensive research shows that these skills evolve gradually during the initial four to five years of schooling.

  3. Expansive Vision of Foundational Learning The decision to curtail NIPUN Bharat's scope may stem from a narrow perspective on what constitutes strong early literacy and numeracy foundations. It is imperative to broaden this vision to encompass literacy's relevance to children's lives, robust oral expression, profound comprehension, and more.

  4. Expanding NIPUN Bharat to Grade 5 Extending the program's scope to Grade 5 would bolster early literacy and numeracy education and broaden the spectrum of educational objectives and outcomes.


NIPUN Bharat has begun to gradually enhance learning outcomes for children in Grades 1-3 across various states. Instead of curtailing such programs, it is essential to adopt a more comprehensive perspective of early foundational learning, emphasizing the significance of literacy in children's lives.

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