One of the important characteristics of the population, on which information is obtained in the census, is literacy. For the purpose of census, a person is deemed to be literate if he or she can read and write with an understanding of any language. A person who can merely read but cannot write is not considered as literate. A person could, however, be a literate without having had any formal education or having passed any minimum educational standard. Ability to merely sign one’s name is not adequate to qualify a person as literate. In the earlier Censuses, that is, till 1971, all children of the age of 4 years and less were treated as illiterate, even if some among them attended school and had picked up reading and writing of a few odd words. However, since 1981, the population aged seven years and above is to be classified as literate or illiterate. In view of this, during 2001 Census, the question on literacy was canvassed only for population aged seven years and above.
Following this criterion, the total number of persons returned as literate in Bihar in 2001 Census is 31675607. Males greatly outnumber females, as among the total literates 20978955 are males and 10696652 females, that is to say, for every 2 literate males there is only 1 literate female. Male literacy rate is almost double (60.32) the female literacy rate (33.57) in Bihar according to Census of India 2001. It can be noted from Table–4 placed at Annexure–4 that literacy rate for Bihar, according to the provisional population totals in 2001 Census, is 47.53% as against 37.49% in 1991 Census. Although the literacy rate in the state has increased by roughly 10 percentage points during 1991-2001, it is still low as compared to the all India average of 65.38 percent. However, it can be said that literacy rates have shown an upward trend over the decade for both males and females (females having an edge over males). The male literacy rate has gone up to 60.32% in 2001 from 51.47% in 1991 while the female literacy rate has gone up to 33.57% in 2001 from 21.99% in 1991.
The sex wise comparative literacy rates for males and females over last six decades (1951 to 2001) can be viewed from Statement–4 placed below:
|STATEMENT – 4|
Literacy Rate from 1951~2001
Note: Literacy rates for 1951,1961 and 1971 relate to population aged five years and above. The rates for the years 1981 to 2001 relate to population aged seven years and above.
It is evident from the above statement that literacy rates for both males and females are improving over the decades in the state. The literacy rate for Bihar has, however, remained lower than the all India average for all the Census years. It is, however, worthwhile to note that literacy rates for 1951, 1961 and 1971 relate to population aged five years and above. The rates for the years 1981 to 2001 relate to population aged seven years and above.
In the Statement–5 given below, comparative literacy rates for males and females in the districts of Bihar during 1991 and 2001 Censuses have been presented:
|STATEMENT – 5|
Literacy Rate by Sex for the State and its Districts
* Literacy Rate is the percentage of literates to population of age 7 years and above.
It is important to note that all the districts have registered an increase in the literacy rate over the decade. The districts which have shown percentage increase of 10 points or more in the literacy rates in 2001 vis-à-vis 1991 Census are Paschim Champaran, Purba Champaran, Sheohar, Sitamarhi, Muzaffarpur, Gopalganj, Siwan, Saran, Vaishali, Begusarai, Bhojpur, Buxar, Kaimur, Rohtas, Jehanabad, Aurangabad and Gaya. The maximum rise in the literacy rate has been observed in the case of Buxar (increase of 24 percentage points), Kaimur (16 percentage points) and Rohtas (14 percentage points) districts, Buxar and Kaimur being new districts and having been created after 1991 Census. The districts having higher literacy rates than the state average of 47.53, are Muzaffarpur (48.15), Gopalganj (48.19). Siwan (52.01), Saran (52.01), Vaishali (51.63), Begusarai (48.55), Bhagalpur (50.28), Munger (60.11), Lakhisarai (48.21), Sheikhpura (49.01), Nalanda (53.64), Patna (63.82), Bhojpur (59.71), Buxar (57.49), Kaimur (55.57), Rohtas (62.36), Jehanabad (56.03), Aurangabad (57.50) and Gaya (51.07). Kishanganj district has the lowest literacy rate (31.02), followed by Araria (34.94), Katihar (35.29) and Purnia (35.51). All these districts were part of the old Purnia district till 1981 Census.
Variation in male and female literacy is another important factor. The sex-wise break-up of the literacy rate clearly indicates that females have outnumbered males so far as decadal increase in literacy percentage points is concerned. While the increase in percentage literacy points among females varies between 18 points (Kaimur district) and 7 points (Purnia) approximately, the rise in percentage literacy points among males have been observed to vary between 12 percentage points (Araria) and 4 percentage points (Patna). Female literacy rate is highest in Patna district (52.17), followed by Munger (47.97) and Rohtas (46.62) districts. Female literates, as a percentage, are found to be lowest in Kishanganj district (18.49), followed by Supaul (21.02), Araria (22.14) and Madhepura (22.31) districts.
The districts have been arranged below in decreasing order of literacy rates during 2001 Census: