Literacy is a basic right and also the foundation for lifelong learning and human development. In the case of Bangladesh, the literacy situation has been improved over the years; however, according to the Literacy Assessment Survey conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics in 2011, the functional literacy rate of age 11 to 44 is 53.7% as per the results of reading, writing and numeracy skill tests.
To achieve literacy for all in the country, we have to consider comprehensive and multi-dimensional approaches. First and foremost, we have to ensure all children go to school and complete basic education with decent quality. At the same time, providing flexible learning opportunities is equally important.
Alternative learning mechanisms of basic education is needed for those who cannot attend formal schooling. We hope the current initiatives of second chance education and equivalency programme by Ministry of Primary and Mass Education (MOPME) will help this process of making education available for children in disadvantaged situation.
In the areas of literacy programmes of youths and adults, there have been various efforts with tangible results and impact to promote literacy through campaigns and non-formal education courses of literacy and skill training, but all these efforts are not always sustained after the completion of each project.
Building on these experiences, Bureau of Non-formal Education (BNFE) is currently initiating to develop a community learning network through joint efforts of community, NGOs and government, including union, upazila and district offices. UNESCO is happy to be associated with this effort.
This year’s International Literacy Day is dedicated to “literacies for 21st century” to highlight the need to realise basic literacy for all and also equip everyone with more advanced literacy skills.
This theme suggests literacy is diverse in terms of its domain, not only reading, writing and numeracy but also vocational, legal, medical, ICT and others. Furthermore, literacy is a continuous process to update our knowledge and skills coping with and proactive to the dynamic changes in the society. Therefore, it is difficult and unrealistic to simply divide the literate and non-literate since the knowledge and skills required as literate persons are changing according to the rapid development of the modern society of 21st century.
To respond to the diverse meanings and potentials for the future, probably we need to review how to deliver basic education. We often discuss formal education and non-formal education separately with different policies, settings and strategies.
Though it is necessary to maintain specific focus on respective sub-sectors, we also need to develop integrated and holistic approaches to synergise the resources and experiences of these sub-sectors to promote literate environment in school, home, workplace and the entire society.
Such an environment can be developed through cooperation with different sectors and dialogues of different generations of children, youths, adults and senior citizens. Inter-sectoral and inter-generational learning is crucial for the learning society in the 21st century.
It is important to obtain various kinds of literacies. At the same time, we have to think about how to use these skills for individuals and for our society.
Equipping literacies for the 21st century may imply the ability to continue to learn new knowledge and skills, and coping with a rapidly changing environment and also the ability to use them for the betterment of individuals and for the sustainable future of our society.