Universal Literacy refers to the proper use of education in all aspects of a person’s physical, mental, social, political, cultural etc. The first objective of universal literacy is to improve the standard of living of all classes of people. Secondly, to remove superstitions and ignorances from the mind of every human being through education and make thinking scientific and rational. Thirdly, Universal Literacy aims to accelerate national development by expanding education. Fourth, overall development of human resources. Fifthly, another objective is to make every man aware of his rights. Sixth, to be aware of the responsibilities and duties of each person towards the country as a citizen. Seventh, to develop the mental progress of each person, i.e, to develop thinking, intelligence, judgment, analytical ability.
Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) conducted a survey from January 1, 2021 to June 30, 2023, collecting data from all districts of the country to measure practical literacy. According to the survey, the practical literacy rate of 7 to 14 year olds in the country is 72.97. Besides, this rate is 60.77 for citizens above 15 years of age. Those can read, write, understand and calculate-the rate of practical literacy in the country is 62.92. Earlier, in 2011, a survey was conducted among 11 to 45-year-olds. The practical literacy rate in the then survey was 53.70 percent. Taking this age limit, the practical literacy rate in the current survey is 73.69 percent. This means that this rate has increased to 19.99 in the last 13 years. On the other hand, according to the preliminary data of the 2022 census, the literacy rate in the country is 74.66 percent. In this case, the male rate is 76.56 percent and the female rate is 72.82 percent. According to the 2011 census report, the literacy rate was 51.77 percent. However, the country is on target to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to make the country illiterate by 2030.
One of the conditions of becoming a human being is to acquire education through the acquisition of literacy. Education is compared to light. Knowledge enlightens people, frees them from the curse of ignorance, helps people walk the path of the future. There is no one in Bengal who has not heard the names of Kazi Nazrul Islam and Rabindranath Tagore. Both have numerous schools, colleges and universities named after them. But they did not have any formal education. But now there are countless people who have done or will do PhD on Nazrul Rabindranath. Albert Einstein did not pass high school. Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Shakespear, Henry Ford, Marktwein, Steve Jobs and many other established people are not so called highly educated. They had no such institutional certificate. But look, if you don’t read their words, you can’t be highly educated, you can’t even get a good job.The world’s greatest intellectuals, teachers, journalists, writers who have not yet sold themselves may not have expensive cars. They do not have houses or flats in elite areas. Many also live in rented houses. But they have a treasure of knowledge, a torch of light, which has enlightened different societies and nations over the ages. Because they like to study, there is no motive behind it to drive home. Every developed and developing country in the world realizes the need for adult education because the more educated the nation is, the more developed the nation is. Education and national development are interrelated. The Government of Bangladesh has also mentioned various strategies to emphasize adult education in the National Education Policy. It is possible to increase the efficiency by educating the people only through the extension of adult education along with the general education system.
We often see in the news that mother son or father son passed SSC or graduation exam together. These are encouraging and inspiring news. In fact, there is no specific age for reading, learning and earning. Education can be done at any time of life. In this case, age is only a relative number. Age cannot be a hindrance to any work if there is a strong will. We often hear many people say these words. However, Italy’s Giuseppe Paterno proved this in reality. He studied at the age of 98 and obtained his master’s degree. He is said to be the oldest student in Italy. Moreover, a man named Raj Kumar Vaish from India obtained his master’s degree at the age of 98. He completed his Masters in Economics in 2015 academic year from an Indian university. Again Srikanth Jichkar is officially regarded as the most educated person in India. Because he had not one or two, but 20 degrees in total. He obtained this degree through 42 university examinations. He studied so diligently that by the age of 25 he had 14 degrees to his name. Not only that, he got first category in most of the exams and besides that he also won many gold medals. There are thousands of such examples around the world. The barrier of age could not stifle education or knowledge. Any degree can be obtained at any age from Open University of Bangladesh. All you need is strong will power and strong interest. Through education we can learn and earn, open our eyes and see the whole world. But when it is limited to textbooks and exam books or if the only motive behind it is to earn money, then it is a matter of concern. Because self-educated citizens are more important than well-educated citizens in the formation of the country and nation.
Education is recognized as a fundamental right in the constitution of Bangladesh. Universal primary education has been declared as the national principle. However, the illiteracy rate in this country has not decreased. It is almost impossible to bring all classes of people under the formal education program. A large section of children cannot attend school due to various reasons. Many of those who do enroll, drop out, never returning to school. Non-formal education is required for them. It is also a must for those who have not had the opportunity to attend school, remaining illiterate due to lack of formal education. Practical education is mainly imparted to adults through non-formal education. The main objective of non-formal education is to create alternative education opportunities for children, adolescents and adults who are deprived of formal education. In this case, everyone should come forward in the movement to educate everyone through universal literacy without limiting education to an age frame.
The writer is a banker and columnist