Rates are rising, but progress is slow
To mark UNESCO's International Literacy Day 2011, the UIS has released new statistics shedding light on progress towards international targets associated with Education for All (EFA) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
Literacy is a cornerstone of human development and economic growth, yet according to the latest data (2009), some 793 million adults -- two thirds of them women -- still lack basic reading and writing skills.
Included in that figure are 127 million youth, aged 15 to 24, who will be hobbled in their ability to contribute to the long-term economic and social development of their families and communities.
The region of South and West Asia is home to more than one-half of the global illiterate population (51.8%), while sub-Saharan Africa represents 21.4%.
However, rates can vary widely across countries in a region. In Mali, for example, merely 26% of the population is literate in contrast to Equatorial Guinea where 93% of the population can read and write.
Globally, literacy rates are on the rise; up 2.3% in the past 10 years, and 10.6% in the past 20 years. While women still lag behind – representing 64% of illiterate adults—they have made significant gains over time. Since 1985, the female adult literacy rate has risen 15%, which is about double the growth of the male literacy rate.
For more information
UIS and Literacy
The UIS is responsible for monitoring international literacy targets associated with Education for All (EFA) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These statistics are updated regularly in the UIS Data Centre and published annually in the Global Education Digest.
In many countries there is a growing interest in assessing a wide range of literacy skills. In response, UIS has developed the Literacy Assessment and Monitoring Programme (LAMP) to better reflect the full spectrum of skills associated with reading and numeracy.