Mahfuzur Rahman Manik
Eliminating illiteracy(8 september FE)
মার্চ 17, 2010

The International Literacy Day as declared by UNESCO in 1965, is observed on September 08 every year throughout the world. This year, International Literacy Day will focus on the empowering role of literacy and its importance in participation, citizenship and social development. 'Literacy and Empowerment' is the theme for the 2009-2010 biennium for the United Nations' literacy decade.

Literacy is the ability to read, write, listen, comprehend and speak a language. In modern contexts, the word refers to reading and writing at a level adequate for communication or that lets one understand and communicate abstract ideas. The UNESCO has drafted a definition of literacy as the "ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society."

The literacy assessment of Bangladesh in 2008 recognized the overarching need for reliable data on literacy in Bangladesh. Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), for the first time, conducted nationwide literacy assessment survey with technical and financial support from UNESCO. The survey classified the respondents into four groups, based on their level of literacy skills: non-literate, semi-literate, literate at basic level, and literate at advanced level.

It found adult literacy rate to be 48.8 per cent. Interestingly it also shows that about 50.0% of the adult literates are females, leading to gender parity. The test-based literacy assessment shows that there is much improvement in the overall literacy situation compared to the results of similar assessments made by other organizations namely Education Watch (2002) and UNESCO, Dhaka Office (2005).

However, a sharp decline in literacy rate among the urban males is observed. According to the government, our literacy rate was 63.0% at the very beginning of our independence. Many non-government organisations (NGOs), along with government, also tried to remove illiteracy from the country. Bangladesh has committed in its poverty reduction strategy paper (PRSP) to remove poverty and illiteracy from the country. The government has declared 'education for all' within 2015 for that matter. Moreover, as this government has pledged to build Digital Bangladesh, it is an urgent need to remove illiteracy from the country. All concerned would expect that the government, with the help of all the people, will make serious efforts to translate its commitment into reality.

(The writer is at IER, Dhaka University. He may be reached at:


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