According to this survey individuals are considered literate if they report that they can read and write. The survey shows that 38 percent of the population six years and older is literate in Nepal (see Table 5.1). Literacy rates are substantially higher in urban areas (64 percent) than in rural areas (36 percent). Regional disparities also exist, with the highest literacy rates found in the Western Development Region (44 percent), and the lowest rates in the Mid-West and Far-Western Development Regions (around 31 percent). The stratification by ecological belt reveals that the hills have the highest overall literacy rate (45 percent).
In Table 5.1 literacy rates for population by two age groups are presented according to different quintile groups. The literacy rate in both the age groups can be seen to be at a higher level in each quintile group starting from the first to the fifth. Increase in the level of literacy rate in each quintile group can be observed for both males and females. The stark difference in the two sexes lie in the quantum of increase of literacy rates as they move from the first to the fifth quintile. In most of the quintile groups the female literacy rate is less than half of the male literacy rate. The quantum of literacy rate for the females compared to the males is even poorer in the higher age group of 15 years and over.
There are marked gender disparities in literacy rates: 52% of males are literate as compared to 24% of females. These gender disparities persist across all classifications (development region, ecological belt and urban/rural residence). They are most marked in the Mid-West and Far-West Development Regions, the mountain belt, and in rural areas, especially rural Terai. The gender gap in literacy rates is the smallest in Kathmandu.
Table 5.2 shows the literacy rates across age groups for the population 6 years and older. Literacy rates decline with age for both males and females, and the pattern is observed in urban and rural Nepal. The gender gap is narrowing, with the younger age cohorts showing less disparity in literacy rates. For example, among 10-14 years olds, 68 percent of males are literate, as compared to 51 percent of females. Among the 50-54 years age cohort, the literacy rates for males is 36 percent and is only 3 percent for females.
Next, these numbers are compared to the literacy rates as computed from the 1991 Census (see Table 5.3). Literacy is defined as the self-reported ability to read and write in the Census tabulations also. The definition for the ‘literacy’ in this survey and 1991 census are identical comprising the twin combined ability to read and write. However the two abilities were determined by asking separate questions to all the respondents concerned in this survey as against to the approach through single querry in the census. This could be the reason for the literacy rate in this survey having slightly lower compared to the census. Considering the simply the ability to read the results even shows a hifher level of literacy rate as 44 percent in this survey. The rankings across Development regions, ecological belt, urban/rural residence and gender are similar. The absolute numbers reported are comparable, but there is a five year difference in the reporting period. Assuming that literacy rates improve with time, the NLSS literacy rates are somewhat lower for people over 15 years of age than those reported by the 1991 Census.
The population 6 years and older can be classified into three groups according to educational status: those who have never attended school, those who have attended school in the past and those currently attending school. There are noticeable differences across regional dimensions, across the ecological belts and urban/rural location of residence (see Table 5.4). Gender differences are also sharp across all these domains. The Far-West Development Region has the highest non-attendance rates for both males and females: 48 percent of males have never attended school and the corresponding number is 84 percent among females. The Western Development Region has the lowest non-attendance rates for both males and females. Rural-urban differences are large, with 60 percent of the rural population never having attended school; the corresponding urban number is 32 percent.
The proportion of population that never attended school in different consumption groups ranges from a maximum of 72 percent to a minimum of 39 percent. Share of female population that never attended school compared to the males as well as for the country is higher in all the consumption groups. Female population that never attended school goes as high as 85 percent in the first quintile and is down to only 54 percent in the fifth quintile which is at par with the male population in the first quintile.
Educational status exhibits distinct patterns across age groups, with the percentage of non-attendance increasing sharply in older age groups (Tables 5.6-5.8). School attendance rates among the younger age groups (10-14 years) are high in urban areas (85 percent for males and 79 percent for females) and among rural males (77 percent). However, girls in rural areas have significantly lower school attendance among this age group (54 percent). Overall, in Nepal, over two thirds of children 6-14 years are currently attending school.
Individuals who never attended school were also asked why they never attended school. Tables 5.9 - 5.11 shows the tabulations for individuals 6-24 years of age for the primary reason of non-attendance. The relative importance of the reasons differ across gender and geographic domains. For females, in all development regions, rural areas, and especially the Terai, the most important reason is that the parents did not want the children to go to school. Parents do not seem to value education for daughters. Two other reasons cited often for females are the need to help at home and the high costs of schooling. For males, the main reason for non-attendance is different across the different domains. In urban areas, 38 percent of males cite that the expenses associated with schooling are the primary reason for their non-attendance, and this is also the predominant reason in rural Eastern Terai. However, in the rural Western Hills/Mountains it is the need to help at home or with the family business which is the major deterrent to school attendance for 36 percent of this age group.
The table 5.9A shows that percentage distribution of main reasons for not attending schools in different quintiles is too expensive for the male whereas it is parents did not want for the females. There is a negative correlation between the quintiles (consumption groups) and the percentage who have never attended school - as increases the quintiles decreases the percentage of who never attended school.
Tables 5.12 - 5.15 show the percentage of the population 15 years and older who have attended school, both in the past and those who are currently in school, and the average years of schooling for this group. The average years of schooling for those who have attended school in the country is 7 years. Males in school have an average of 7.1 years, and females 6.77 years. The Central Development Region, urban areas and the Hills have higher than average years of schooling for both males and females.
The average years of schooling for those who have attended school in the country can be seen to range from 5 years in the first quintile to 8 years in the fifth quintile. Compared to this the male average years of schooling is higher and those of fremales are on the lower side in all the quintiles.
Gross enrollment ratios for primary, lower secondary and secondary school are presented in Table 5.16. The primary gross enrollment ratio is computed as the number of children attending primary school as a percentage of the target age group for primary school, that is the number of children 6-10 years of age . Overage children and repititions could result in a ratio greater than 100. The gross primary school enrollment ratio is 86 for Nepal. This ratio is 100 for males and 72 for females. Gender disparities are evident across all classifications. It is only in urban areas that gender disparities are low at the primary level. Lower secondary ratios fall sharply to 39 for Nepal, and to only 11 for secondary school. Gender disparities increase with the level of education.
Net enrollment ratios are shown in Table 5.17. This ratio differs from the gross enrollment ratio in that the numerator is the number of children in the appropriate age who are currently attending the given level of schooling. Hence, the net primary enrollment ratio is the number of 6-10 year olds attending primary school, as a percentage of the number of 6-10 years olds in the population.
Net primary school enrollment rates are significantly lower than the gross enrollment rates -- 57 for Nepal as a whole, 67 for males and 46 for females. The wide disparity in the net and gross enrollment rates seems to indicate that there are many children who start school late, or that there is a large grade repetition. The net enrollment rates for lower secondary and secondary school are 19 percent and 9 percent respectively. Inter-regional disparities, differences across urban-rural location and across ecological belts are also observed in these rates.
The target age group for lower secondary school is assumed to be 11-13 years and for seondary school it is 13-15 years.