Whenever I hear about our efforts to increase the literacy rate in Bangladesh, Mark Twain’s famous quote pops up in my mind. He wrote: “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education” in his work “A Day in the Life of a Freshman” (Chapter 12).
The reason I cite this quote is that I’ve always found a distinct difference between “education” and “literacy.” I’ve observed that all schools can make us literate, but only a few can educate us. Schools don’t always have the readiness to educate their pupils.
And that’s why this year’s increase in Bangladesh’s literacy rate (from 52% in 2009 to 59.8% in 2013) couldn’t impress me. This rise is certainly great news for a country like ours, but at the same time, we must say, there’s a lot to do for educating Bangladeshi citizens in the real sense of the term.
If we analyse Mark Twain’s quote, we find there’s a lack of confidence in schools as far as “education” is concerned; this sentence implies that one shouldn’t depend on his/her school to be educated.
Now, if we consider the entire state machinery in Bangladesh as our school, to my mind, it’s falling behind in making us educated. Education, we believe, is our ability to judge and analyse our surroundings and lead our lives as better humans than what we used to be.
Literacy is certainly a beginning, but mere literacy wouldn’t make us better human beings. For example, our education, earned through literacy, has already failed to convince us to abide by the law, be less corrupt, not to break traffic rules, not to destroy our rivers, to care for the womenfolk etc.Or, are we failing to realise that this ‘info boom’ has boomeranged into an ‘info overflow’ which we’re not ready to absorb, failing to focus on the right kind of information?
Our way of literacy-based education has left us unskilled in many ways. If we take our foreign language skill for example, the average Bangladeshi students learn English language and literature for solid 12 years; we assume that they become quite literate in that subject, but very surprisingly, if you ask them to speak in English or write something in English, they fail every time and miserably.
Even the students from English departments exasperate when it comes to speaking and writing. The same is likely to happen when it comes to our own Bangla language.
Our language reflects our education; our way of respecting others shows how educated we are; and our attitude illustrates our capability of building an educated nation. The type of language that is being exchanged on daily basis (as we observe in our media) doesn’t prove that we are educated.
Our ways of treating fellow citizens only reflect our literacy-based mindset. And our attitude in running the state of the affairs reveals that we are yet to gain the insight to do the job.
We need the education to give us the insight to look into our environs at the family, neighbourhood and national levels and make the world a better place for all of us. Education makes us morally upright and uprightness leads us to serve humanity, be creative and inventive, love our own country, take the right decision, excel in whatever we do. The prophets weren’t literate, but their names still glow among the best educated people in human history. They taught; they solved many indissoluble crises of our civilisation; and they led. They didn’t have schools to become educated.
It’s worthwhile to mention skill-based education; “skill” being one of the aspects of education, our literacy rate isn’t helping in making us more knowledgeable professionals. We haven’t seen any of our universities educate us on how to communicate at the international level or how to earn the expertise to invent something. Literacy should inspire us to become educated and education should inspire us to excel in our respective professions.
We now live in the age of information boom. It’s easier to learn what we want to than it was just ten years ago. Here, too, mere literacy may not help us learn. Our literacy isn’t teaching us what to choose from this ocean of information. This is where education comes in: the ability to choose the right kind of information that we’re interested in.
The information age should be making our society a knowledge-based one. However, our state of affairs actually doesn’t imply that. Or, are we failing to realise that this “info boom” has boomeranged into an “info overflow” which we’re not ready to absorb, failing to focus on the right kind of information?
This, again, reminds me of British gynaecologist and writer Alec Bourne’s quote: “It’s possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated.”