*The UIS is in the process of adopting a more accurate measure of literacy skills than has generally been available in the past: the results of a simple direct assessment of the ability to read a short sentence. Until recently, most literacy data collected by countries were based on the reporting by survey respondents of their own abilities, or those of other household members, to read and write. Such methods tend to over-estimate literacy skills. A reading test, as implemented in recent Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), typically yields lower literacy rates than the self- or household declaration used in most censuses and surveys.
In the new data released by the UIS, some literacy rates for the following countries are now based on assessments rather than individuals’ declarations: Benin, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Guyana, Haiti, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The use of the assessment measure largely explains the observed decline in literacy rates for some years in many of these countries. Care should therefore be taken when analysing trends over time and in interpreting these results.
**Palestine became a Member of UNESCO on 23 November 2011. The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on the maps do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.