The challenge of 39 percent ‘illiteracy’ in smart Bangladesh

Sathia Kumar

According to the statistics of the international organization Macrotrend, the position of Bangladesh is relatively good among South Asian countries.

Bangladesh’s position in literacy is relatively good among South Asian countries. Bangladesh ranks third among the eight countries, ahead of India. But stakeholders say, building a smart Bangladesh by 2041 may be a big challenge, leaving a large number of people still out of literacy.

According to the statistics of the international organization Macrotrend, the position of Bangladesh is relatively good among South Asian countries. However, according to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) 2023 data, the effective literacy rate in Bangladesh is 60.77 percent. Although currently the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education says that the total literacy rate in Bangladesh is 76.08 percent. And 23.92 percent are illiterate. However, the non-formal primary education bureau of Bangladesh is not satisfied with this literacy rate. Educationists and related parties say that 39.23 percent of people do not have practical literacy in the country.

When asked, educationist and former caretaker government advisor Rasheda K Chowdhury said, ‘The information given on International Literacy Day (September 8) is 76.08% literacy rate in Bangladesh; There is room for question about it. According to the ministry, 23.92 percent of the population could not be brought under literacy. There is no opportunity to ignore that. The government agency (BBS) has shown that 39.23 percent of people in the country are not functionally literate. Bureau of Statistics information will be correct. However, if the Ministry’s information is correct, then we have seven years left (2030) to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. Which I have not been able to do for a long time, then how will I fulfill the goal of literacy in these seven years?’

Rasheda K Chowdhury said, there are three categories in non-formal or alternative education. Those who have completed a primary or dropped out of primary, those aged 11 to 45 who have never seen the light of education, and our commitment to the goal is to ensure education for all citizens.

Referring to the international commitment to ensure basic education for all citizens by 2030, the educationist said, ‘Constitutional commitment is also to ensure education for all citizens. Eighth and Fifth-Year Plans also have ongoing targets. To fulfill these goals, the government must give importance. And only literacy is not accepted in the world. Literacy should be accompanied by skills. To meet all the targets including the 2030 target, we need to proceed with a roadmap. Most literacy programs are project-based. When the project is completed, it does not start for another two or three years. These are insurance behaviors. SDG on one side, Smart Bangladesh on the other, and demographic dividend. We can harvest these at home. We cannot fully participate in the fourth industrial revolution. So the government has to plan and fix the roadmap and invest.

Development worker and education researcher KM Enamul Haque believes that the rate of ‘functional literacy’ should be increased. He said, ‘The use of digital technology has been newly added to functional literacy. As the definition of literacy has changed, literacy is no longer simply being able to read and write to keep pace with the world. In addition to being able to read and write, read and understand, calculate and calculate, digital text-based information retrieval and communication skills are also required. Without these, it is not possible to maintain one’s position in the changing world. In this situation, investment in public education should be increased. Effectively literate population should be created and utilized. Without these, it will not be possible to achieve the goals of the SDGs or face the biggest challenge of building a developed and smart Bangladesh by 2041.

Funding for literacy is off

Stakeholder Recommendations – Invest in mass education to help dropout children and adults acquire practical literacy. But the investment is stopped from July 2023.

According to the Bureau of Non-Formal Primary Education, under the sub-component of the Fourth Primary Education Development Program (PEDP-4), initiatives have been taken to provide non-formal primary education to one million out-of-school children in the age group of 8 to 14 years. Meanwhile, the program of providing primary education to 1 lakh out-of-school children from PEDP-3 through the Non-formal Education Bureau has been completed. Out of the remaining 9 lakh, 8 lakh 2 thousand 536 students have been enrolled so far and teaching activities are ongoing through 25 thousand 712 learning centers. This program has not been funded since July.

Director General of Non-formal Education Bureau. Md. Abul Kalam Azad told Bangla Tribune, “The literacy rate in Bangladesh is 76.08 percent. It has been proposed to extend the activities of the literacy scheme till 2025 to increase the literacy rate. The ministry did not increase. The program was closed for just 800 to 900 crore rupees. 2 million children who drop out are going to lose the opportunity of education. We are working towards making Bangladesh illiterate by 2041. Because it will not be possible to build a smart Bangladesh by keeping a large population of the country illiterate.

Literacy and functional literacy

Director General of Non-formal Education Bureau. Md. Abul Kalam Azad said, ‘Literacy is not just knowing letters or letters; Able to write, read and speak. A literate person can get minimum education. Able to calculate and perform general calculations. Can read and understand newspapers. Just being able to write the name cannot be said to be literate. ‘

According to the BBS, the literacy rate measurement system is not one-sided. Conventional definitions refer to reading, writing and arithmetic. Literacy, currently defined by UNESCO, refers to the ability to find information based on a digital text and to be able to recognize, understand, explain, create and communicate with a rapidly changing world.

Literacy refers to reading, writing, lifelong learning and skills in the use of numbers. Digital skills, knowledge of news, education in sustainable development, global citizenship and various work-related skills. Literacy skills are changing day by day using digital technology and people are engaging in a variety of tasks in the information and learning process.

Status of practical literacy

According to BBSA data, the total literacy rate among the population above 15 years of age in the country is 60.77. Among them 58.24 percent are male and 62.84 percent are female. And the total literacy rate of 7 to 14 years old is 72.97 percent. In this age group, male literacy is 69.67 percent and female literacy is 76.42 percent.

On the other hand, among the population above 15 years of age, semi-literate and illiterate total 39.23 percent. Semi-literate and illiterate males are 41.76 percent and females are 37.16 percent.

According to BBSA’s practical survey of literacy there is a difference between rural and urban literacy. Literacy rate is lower in villages than in cities. Literacy rates are even lower among marginalized communities. In terms of gender, the average difference between men and women is not high, but the marginal literacy rate is low.

According to the data of BBS, the literacy rate of 7 to 14 year olds is 72.97 percent in functional literacy in villages and cities of Bangladesh. The urban literacy rate is 76.49 percent and the rural literacy rate is 71.47 percent. Literacy rate among people aged 15 years and above is 60.77 percent in rural and urban areas. Literacy rate in urban areas is 71.06 percent and in rural areas it is 56.12 percent.

Stakeholders say that the low literacy rate in villages is a challenge to reach SDG targets.

Location of Bangladesh in South Asia

According to Macrotrends, Afghanistan’s literacy rate in 2021 is 37.27 percent, ranking the country eighth in literacy in South Asia. Pakistan’s literacy rate is 58 percent in 2019, the country ranks 7th in literacy rate in South Asia. The literacy rate in Bhutan in 2021 is 70.95 percent, the country’s position is number six in South Asia. In 2021, Nepal’s literacy rate is 71.15 percent, the country ranks 5th in South Asia. India has the fourth highest literacy rate in South Asia, with a literacy rate of 74.37 percent in 2018.

Bangladesh is in the third position in South Asia, the literacy rate of Bangladesh in 2020 is 74.97 percent. Although currently literacy in Bangladesh is 67.02 percent.

Sri Lanka is second in South Asia, with a literacy rate of 92.38 percent in 2020. Maldives ranks first in literacy in the region, with a literacy rate of 97.86 percent in 2021.

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