Statistics on literacy rate confusing

As internationally-acclaimed promoter of literacy Dr Frank Serafini said, “There is no child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book.” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s views on the International Literacy Day on Tuesday were in tune with those of the award-winning Professor of Literacy Education and Children’s Literature at Arizona State University. She explained why children drop out at the primary stage and why a large number exit from schools. That was why, the PM had never missed an opportunity in the past to tell the authorities to lessen the heavy load of textbooks in their school bags which they cannot even bear on their backs. The prime minister is a hardcore realist when she said such a load continues to distract attention of children from burdensome studies.

In the same vein, the prime minister suggested that children must be enrolled in Class I without any written admission test.  Whenever a child turns to the age of getting admitted to Class I, he or she should have to be admitted and there’s no need to sit for test with printed papers because this is his or her right, not a matter of test, she pointed out.  Today, it is simply because of the wrong approach of persons tasked with attaining 100 per cent literacy, Bangladesh is set to fail to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) in this regard by 2015. The condition of the countywide primary schools is so pitiable that it casts a damper on psyche of toddlers entering their new lives as beginners in literacy. And without literacy, the dream of Bangladesh to turn the country’s huge population into human resources and then human capital will always remain a mirage.

(Source – http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/2015/09/12/107461)

Today, the country’s literacy rate reached 71 per cent till June this year which should have been 100 per cent by December-end. Fallout of cent per cent literacy is obvious. Literate parents can teach their children about health, nutrition and discipline from their early childhood. Also to create accountability for society, the children can be taught basic norms from their early childhood and steps should be taken keeping that in mind. The ‘Bangladesh Literacy Programme’ has been in place with an outlay of Tk 4.52 billion of taxpayers’ money to make the illiterate people literate and create skilled manpower but where does the money go?

Statistics on literacy rate in the country are confusing. The authorities have failed to compute the correct figure as it is not very difficult to do it through its existing countrywide network. When the PM says the literacy rate is 71 per cent, primary and mass education minister Mostafizur Rahman disclosed 61 per cent people in the country are literate now. Last year he said 65 per cent of the people are literate. Immediate past primary and mass education minister Afsarul Amin said 71 per cent people of the country were literate in 2013. The confusion was compounded by education minister Nurul Islam Nahid after he told parliament on June 16 last that 70 per cent people of the country were literate. The minister quoted Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) statistics while replying to a written question from a ruling party MP.

Officials of the primary and mass education ministry officials say the rate of literacy among people aged 15 and above is taken into account. Quoting BBS statistics released in June, the mass education minister said 61 per of people aged 15 and up are now literate and the rate is 57.2 per cent for people aged 7 and up. If the country lacks vital statistics on literacy, all plans and programmes to make a headway in literacy are fated to fumble.

It is really worrying that the primary school drop-out rate reportedly stands at over 20 per cent. This means that even though efforts to increase primary school enrolment have progressed well topping 97 per cent, the benefits of this achievement are being hugely undermined by a large proportion of children dropping out of schools.

The present government had pledged in its 2008 manifesto to achieve the MDG on literacy, but efforts to develop non-formal education schemes for adults have languished behind other projects, notably those to increase primary school enrolment. In primary schools, programmes to distribute mid-day meals and breakfasts, or to pay stipends to poorer families, have been successful in preventing drop-outs. But these are taking place in a few areas, not nationally. At the secondary level, more emphasis should be given to keeping girl students in schools by curbing child marriage.

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