According to a report of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics in 2020, the literacy rate in the country was 75.6 per cent among people aged 15 years and above. This is a big jump in the rate from mere 16.8 per cent in 1971. But still we need to educate the remaining 24.4 per cent of the population by 2030 as targeted under the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.6.
If this is the state of literacy in Bangladesh, it remains a big task for us to turn the entire population into a skilled labour force before we capitalise on the human capital after the country's graduation from the Least Developed Country (LDC) status in 2026. The United Nations has set the threshold of public expenditure on education at 6.0 per cent of GDP (gross domestic product). But in Bangladesh the actual expenditure is reportedly less than two per cent. So, the question arises as to how much importance we attach to education. We should remember that education will remain a big challenge in the post-LDC era.
Three economic miracles have happened in Asia. They are: Japan, South Korea and Singapore. These three countries were nowhere near where they stand today. When Japan decided to change the lot of the people, the country resolved to spend heavily on education, industrialisation and farming. Education led to skill development that benefited industrialisation while it was made sure that farmers could gain most from their produce financially. Within a very short time the country made its mark on the world stage as we see today. South Korea also treaded almost a similar path. The country banked on industrialisation as well as human resource development through education. The country also incentivised farming. Thus the country has crafted its miraculous economic rise. The story of Singapore is most interesting. It is a city state. It has no other resource except its population, which is also very small in size. Still it could pull off a miraculous performance on the economic front because of its thrust on education. It could turn its small population into highly productive human capital because of education. That attests to what wonders education can work.
The population of Bangladesh is far higher than that of Singapore. So a big opportunity lies there in reaping the untapped potential of this large population. Education is the foremost tool to turn Bangladesh's huge population into a highly potential human resource. We should remember that many trade benefits will cease to exist after Bangladesh graduates from the LDC club in 2026. Negotiations are going on to retain some of the benefits for a few more years in the post-LDC era. But it is certain that at one stage those remaining benefits also will no longer exist. So we need to get ready for that and education remains a big challenge in achieving that end. A lot of time has elapsed since the country was liberated in 1971. We do not afford to lose time anymore to educate our people as per requirements in the present-day world. If we fail to do so, we should remember that the graduation of a country from the LDC club does not guarantee that it will not slip back into that category in future.