It has been known for some years that Bangladesh is going to miss the Millennium Development Goal of achieving 100% adult literacy by the end of 2015.
The government had pledged in its 2008 manifesto to achieve this by last year, but efforts to develop non-formal education schemes for adults have languished behind other projects, notably those to increase primary school enrollment.
We find it very worrying then that the primary school drop-out rate reportedly stands at over 20%.
This means that even through efforts to increase primary school enrollment have progressed well topping 97%, the benefits of this achievement are being hugely undermined by a large proportion of children dropping out of school.
Such a high drop-out rate which disproportionately involves children in remote areas and among marginalised groups, is keeping down the attainment of literacy among today’s school-age children. The knock on effects of this are obvious as failing to guarantee literacy for this generation holds back the country’s ability to ensure it for future generations.
Mass illiteracy contributes to and exacerbates poverty and unemployment. The government has to give more priority to tackling the factors which keep illiteracy levels so high in the nation.
Within primary schools, there is evidence that programs to distribute mid-day meals and breakfasts, or to pay stipends to poorer families, have been successful in preventing drop-outs.
Lessons from such successes should be rolled out nationally. At the secondary level, more emphasis should be given to keeping girl students in school, by boosting efforts to curb child marriage and fight social stigmas that cause drop-outs.
Plugging drop-out rates so all children can properly complete school is the number one priority needed to end the scourge of illiteracy.
Source: Dhaka Tribune