Literacy in a Digital World and Bangladesh | 2017-09-08 |

Literacy in a Digital World and Bangladesh

Professor Quazi Faruque Ahmed

    8 September, 2017 12:00 AM printer

Literacy in a Digital World and Bangladesh

Professor Quazi Faruque Ahmed

Today is International Literacy Day. The theme of the Day this year is: ‘Literacy in a Digital World’. The decision to celebrate a day highlighting literacy was taken at the meeting of Education Ministers in Teheran in 1965 on 8th September. The member countries of the United Nations began observing the Day from 1966.  Elaborate programmes have been organised by the government, teachers’ unions, and non-govt organisations in Bangladesh to mark the Day that include messages from President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and rally at the central Shahid Minar in the morning. It will be followed by a discussion meeting on the theme of the Day, at the auditorium of Shilpakala Academy with Primary and Mass Education minister Mr. Mustafizur Rahman as chief guest and Ms Sun Li of UNESCO Dhaka office as guest of honour. Meanwhile Primary and Mass Education Minister held a press conference yesterday on the achievements in literacy programmes in Bangladesh. He mentioned that literacy rate in Bangladesh now is 72.3 per cent.

Definition, Achievements and Lacking

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) defines literacy as the “ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using 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”
Over the past several decades, global literacy rates have significantly increased. The main reasons for such an upward trend stems from the evolution of the educational systems of many developing countries, and an increased acknowledgement of the importance of education to these societies in their respective entireties. Still, many nations are struggling with the provision of educational resources to better their populaces, building the necessary infrastructure it requires and ensuring regular enrolment of students within their schools. Nonetheless, even those countries lagging well behind global norms realise how necessary it is to supply high quality education to the masses in order to compete and succeed in the global market again, to mention a sad part of literacy achievements, only 6 per cent of adults in the poorest countries, and less than 1 per cent in Bangladesh have ever attended literacy programmes, according to GEM Report published last year. It further says that  Bangladesh is expected to achieve universal primary education in 2055 and universal lower secondary education in 2075 while universal upper secondary education not until the next century. The GEM report showed the potential for education to propel progress towards all global goals outlined in the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs).

 Evolution of Theme  

International Literacy Day celebration takes place on a specific theme of the year since 2006 in order to make it effective by executing some strategic plan to resolve the problems related to the illiteracy in many countries all over the world. Some of the year wise themes of the International Literacy Day are mentioned. Theme for 2006 was “Literacy sustains development” to focus on achieving social progress. Theme for 2007 and 2008 was “Literacy and Health” to focus on literacy and epidemics (communicable diseases like HIV, Tuberculosis, Malaria, etc). Theme for 2009-2010 was “Literacy and Empowerment” to focus on gender equality and empowering women. Theme for 2011-2012 was “Literacy and Peace” to focus on importance of literacy for peace. The theme for 2013 was “Literacy’s for the 21st Century” to promote global literacy. Theme for 2014 was “Literacy and Sustainable Development” to promote sustainable development in the areas of social development, economic growth, and environmental integration. Theme for 2015 was “Literacy and Sustainable Societies”. Last year in 2016 the theme was: ‘Know the Past, Build the Future’

UNESCO on the Literacy Day 2017

On the occasion of International Literacy Day 2017, UNESCO Director General Ms Irina Bokova has said, information and communication technologies are creating opportunities to address this challenge. Digital tools can help expand access to learning and improve its quality. They have the power to reach the unreachable, improve the monitoring of literacy progress, facilitate skills assessment, and make the management and governance of skills delivery systems more efficient. To create and seize new opportunities to take forward Sustainable Development Goal 4 on Education and lifelong learning for all, we need collective action. Partnerships between governments, civil society and the private sector are essential today to promote literacy in a digital world. We need to advance the global agenda and support national literacy initiatives.

To Review Progress & Move Forward

International Literacy Day offers a moment to review the progress and come together to tackle the challenges ahead. This year, the event is devoted to better understanding the type of literacy required in a digital world to build more inclusive, equitable and sustainable societies. Everyone should be able to make the most of the benefits of the new digital age, for human rights, for dialogue and exchange, for more sustainable development. For that all concerned with education are to engage in concerted efforts. They include the govt, the policy makers and above all the teachers who will bring changes effectively. There may be gap and controversies about the percentage of literacy and orientation.   But we should get used to stress less on rhetoric and polemics and emphasise more on actual work on the basis of commitment and appropriate planning to achieve literacy for all, from the young learners to the aged and the adults. After all developments touch all and concern all through all.


The writer is a member of National Education Policy Committee and Chairman, Initiative for Human Development (IHD). Email: