NIPUN Bharat – National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy (2021) Mission and its relevance in contemporary times


NIPUN Bharat Mission focuses on providing Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) skills to all the learners at the end of Grade 3 by 2026-27 and make learning a joyous and engaging process for all.

The Indian education system has successfully progressed to achieve universal access to education for children at the elementary level. However, providing universal access and achieving a high number of enrollments does not ensure an impressive level of learning in children. In many national-level independent surveys and research studies, it has been found that children in Grade 3 are not able to read and comprehend lower-grade text which is a great concern.  

The NIPUN – National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy Bharat Mission was launched in July 2021 as part of the centrally sponsored Samagra Shiksha Scheme under the implementing agency Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Education. The word Nipun in Hindi means to get skillful at something. The main aim of NIPUN Bharat Mission is to provide Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) skills to all the children at the end of Grade 3 by 2026-27. Therefore the skills that we are aiming for at a national level are basic literacy and numeracy skills. 

The Objective and Components of the Scheme

The mission aims to achieve foundational literacy and numeracy skills in children till grade 3 by 2026-27. It not only supports the children but also their parents, teachers, and community members to realize the complete potential of the children in creating a supporting learning environment. The objective is further divided into 3 smaller developmental goals- 

To ensure a supportive and strong FLN skill set in children a huge Foundational Learning Study (FLS) has been conducted by the NCERT. The objective of the study is to assess the learning outcomes of Grade 3 to set a foundation for the NIPUN Bharat Mission. The study sample includes approximately 86,000 grade 3 students with a total coverage of 10,000 schools of varying nature – government, government-aided, central government, and some private schools. As it is a national mission this study has been conducted in 20 languages as a medium of instruction.

Three reports have been released on the National, State, and District level. Literacy skills like phonological awareness, oral and reading language comprehension, coding, and decoding, along with fluency in reading and speaking are assessed in children in grade 3. Similarly, numeracy skills include number identification, number operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, identifying patterns, measurement, and data handling. 

Why is NIPUN a National Mission?

NIPUN Bharat is a response to the NEP 2020 which has identified Foundational Literacy and Numeracy as a top priority for the education system. It is a national mission because it has emerged to cater to the gaps in the learning of children at an early stage across India. Many research findings, have shown that there is a crisis-like situation in the education system in India. The crisis is none other than the learning crisis in school-going children.

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) by Pratham is the key source of information on the learning crisis in India. The report suggests that there is learning stagnation in the children. The percentage of rural class 3 children who can read a basic text fluently hasn’t improved since 2018. It also suggests that a quarter of youth aged 14-18 can not read an elementary level and over a half struggle with division problems of grade 3-4 students.

If these learning gaps continue to persist from an early stage it can be a greater challenge for the children as they move ahead. Increased dropout rates because the child is not able to catch up and survive in the system could be one such challenge. The focus till class 4-5 is on ‘learning to read’ but as the academic level increases the focus shifts to ‘reading to learn’ and the shift can only happen smoothly when once the children can read and write proficiently. 

Another interesting yet concerning observation from NEP 2020 is that it states if the FLN is not achieved then the rest of the policy becomes irrelevant for the students as some basic skills are lacking. Does that mean that the success of NEP 2020 is dependent on the success of the NIPUN Bharat Mission? Most probably, yes! Nevertheless, NEP 2020 is rather a descriptive document with little emphasis on the narration of how the implementation would be done. Its success or failure could be a determinant of anything that happens while these sub-goals are worked upon. 


To implement the NIPUN Bharat Mission a guideline booklet has been published by the Department of School Education and Literacy which has in it a total of 17 chapters focussed on two broad aspects. One category is focused on academic aspects and the other on administrative aspects. Both these aspects focus on answering ‘what’ the mission is and ‘how’ the mission can be achieved given the objectives, respectively.

To know ‘the what’ we need to understand FLN skills, the teacher and the learners, and the process that facilitates learning, and in the end, we need to know the school readiness of the child. Similarly, in order to know the ‘how’ there is a need to identify NIPUN as a national mission and then identify the various stakeholders and their roles as suggested by the document. “NIPUN lays down priorities and actionable agenda for states and UTs to achieve the goal of proficiency in FLN for every child and covers 5 years of the education continuum, which includes 3 years of preschool and grades 1 & 2.” – Third Anniversary of NEP 2020, Thematic Session 10, July 2023. 


NIPUN Bharat Mission provides an implementation guideline to ensure children of Grade 3 can achieve basic level literacy and numeracy skills. It does so by subdividing the main aim into smaller goals. Therefore, the performance of the mission can be accessed by accessing the achievement level of these smaller goals. FLN and FLS are two such sub-goals. 

Findings of  Learning Outcomes of FLS – 

  • 51% of Punjabi students exceeded the global proficiency level, while only 9% of Tamil students did. 
  • Only two languages, Telugu and Mizo, have more than 30% of students meeting the global proficiency level.
  • Out of the 20 languages assessed, Tamil, Konkani, Assamese, and Bodo have the weakest performance. More than 30% of the students in these languages needed to meet the minimum global proficiency level.
  • Similarly, Khasi, Urdu, and Nepali also have a low performance. Over 40% of the students in these languages only partially meet the minimum global proficiency level.
  • Out of all the children who were surveyed 42% meet the global proficiency level, and 37% partially meet the minimum proficiency level in mathematics which means that a majority of students are falling under the minimum global proficiency. 
  • The performance of girls was worse than that of boys making them more disadvantaged in these skills. 

State of Foundational Learning – 

There are 36 indicators under five categories to know the index of foundational learning, namely – Educational Infrastructure, Access to Education, Learning outcomes, Basic Health, and Governance. These categories and their respective indicators also align with the SDG goals for example, while ensuring the basic health of children Zero Hunger is being taken care of, Educational Infrastructure and access to education ensure quality education, and so on. Following are the findings on the index on foundational Learning – 

  • India’s average score is 44.48. 
  • A total of 18 out of 36 States/UTs have scored more than the country’s average in the FLN index.
  • The scores of small states lie between 34.38 and 64.19 with Punjab being at the top.
  • The scores of large states lie between 37.46 and 54.58 with  West Bengal being at the top.
  • The scores of UTs lie between 38.46 and 54.76 with Puducherry being at the top.
  • The scores of North Eastern states lie between 29.66 and 56.75 with Sikkim being at the top.

In Educational infrastructure – 

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In Basic Health –


In Access to Education – 

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Source – Institute for Competitiveness, EAC – PM Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Report


The NIPUN Bharat Mission is still a new Mission with a long-term vision embedded in its aim. If all the developmental goals are taken care of, this mission can prove to be a new pathway to bring back to life the education system of India.  

Improvements have been observed in the learning outcomes after the interventions were made under this mission. “The study found that the percentage of children who could read and write with comprehension at the end of Class III increased from 52% in 2021 to 65% in 2022. The percentage of children who could perform basic mathematical operations at the end of Class III also increased from 48% in 2021 to 60% in 2022.” – The New Indian Express, 2023. The mission takes into consideration teacher training and has trained nearly 2 million teachers. 

Other initiatives 

NIPUN Bharat Mission is not the only initiative taken by the GOI, several other initiatives like DIKSHA an online platform, Vidya Pravesh which is a three-month Play -based module for grade 1st, NCF – FS, Jadui Pitara, etc are all to support the foundational literacy and numeracy skills in the children. All these initiatives taken together can improve the teaching-learning at schools many times to what the current situation is. 

Way Forward 

The key to moving ahead with an ever-improving educational status is to focus on the learners and their learning. Both can be catered to if the teaching styles and pedagogies are taken care of while the learning takes place as well as when the learning is being assessed. The language system of the child will only be able to help the child in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and applying some mathematical logic with comprehension when there is no baggage from the previous learning experience.

In a diverse culture like India, the use of language is both an element to celebrate as well as an element to reflect upon. The multilingual aspect of the classroom is for celebration while the struggle to choose in which language to instruct and teach at school is debatable. Therefore the proposal of a three language formula is still an issue in many parts of the country. 

It is crucial to ensure that educational research takes place in the country more frequently and consistently. To cater to the contemporary issues in education there is a need to design policies that are backed up with data and reflect the concerns of all the people. Improving learning outcomes is at present the focus of all the stakeholders of education therefore there must be active interventions made to achieve these goals. 

References – 

Ankita is a research intern at IMPRI and is currently pursuing her MA in Education and Development from NIEPA.

Acknowledgement- The author would like to thank Vishavjeet Singh, Sameeran Galagali, and Tanu Paliwal for sharing their critical observations, kind comments, and insightful suggestions to improve the article.

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This article was posted by Ankita, a research intern at IMPRI.