September 8 is observed as International Literacy Day. This year, the day was celebrated under the theme of “Literacy in a digital world.”
Traditionally, the core factors of literacy are the ability to read, write, and use arithmetic. Unfortunately, education systems are mostly textbook-driven and passive.
The focus, in this case, is on the lower level of Bloom’s Taxonomy-knowledge, comprehension, and application. The teaching-learning process is teacher-centred, and there is very little nexus between curriculum-school-textbooks and the real world.
As a result, the students, in a conventional education setting, just sit and get what they are given. They act like passive spectators. They only follow what they are ordered to, like machines. The learners know the facts, but they do not know where to use and how to use it successfully.
But, in the 21st century, the perception and realities of education have completely changed. Because of enormous worldwide migration, the proliferation of the internet, interdependent international markets, climate unpredictability, and other issues remind us regularly that countries and individuals are part of a globally interconnected network, and that people are part of the global community.
This inter-connectedness makes it imperative for students around the globe to learn how to communicate, collaborate, and solve problems with individuals outside national boundaries.
Technology can cost-effectively do the kinds of jobs that people with only basic skills can do, which means that the workplace needs fewer people with only basic skill-sets and more people with higher-order thinking skills.
So, now more than ever, education is considered to be outcome-based, as it focuses on how to learn rather than what to learn.
It is now more research-driven where students are active participants, get more freedom in their learning process. These active participants in a classroom are called “learners” instead of “students.”
Given that Bangladesh is planning to be a middle-income country by 2021 and higher-income country by 2041, it has to align the traditional perception of education and literacy with that of the 21st century
As a consequence, the teaching-learning process is learner-centred, where the teacher acts as a facilitator or a coach and learning is designed on the upper levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy-synthesis, analysis, and evaluation.
The new curriculum is developed according to the diverse interests, experiences, and talents of the learners and it is closely related to real world.
The learners, in contrast to the students, are treated as the initiators, the problem solvers. They like to move, experiment, and aim at not only the product but also the process.
The skills of 21st century learners can be divided into four categories: Ways of thinking, ways of working, tools for working, and living in the world.
The learners’ way of thinking should be creative, innovative, and critical. They need to develop the power of imagination and problem-solving aptitude in themselves.
Their ways of working need to be cooperative. They need to acquire effective oral and written communication, teamwork, and leadership skills.
We are living, undoubtedly, in the apex age of information, communication, and technology. Communication through technology, today, is so fast, and the information so profuse, that we need an immense campaign to keep up with it. The learners, for this obvious reason, must obtain ICT literacy first.
Lastly, the learners have to be socially responsible. As a citizen of the global village, they are expected to act for humanity. For this, they should be culturally aware and should know cultural varieties.
In Bangladesh, net enrollment rate in educational institutions is increasing while the dropout rate is falling.
Then again, 30% of the youth (15-24 years) is illiterate, and gross enrollment rate in the pre-primary level is below 30%. According to UNESCO’s “Global Monitoring Report on Education for All,” South and West Asia has the lowest regional adult literacy rate of 58.6% and in Bangladesh, it is 61.5%.
Above and beyond, according to numerous research, the overall quality of the learners falls far short of the mark we aim to achieve. Given that Bangladesh is planning to be a middle-income country by 2021 and higher-income country by 2041, it has to align the traditional perception of education and literacy with that of the 21st century.
Bangladesh is progressing in education. But is it progressing fast enough?
Hasan Toufiq Imam is a teacher at the Institute of Education and Research, University of Chittagong.