Although literacy rates continue to rise from one generation to the next, as per new data from UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), there are still 750 million illiterate adults, two-thirds of whom are women. This is a harsh reminder of the work that needs to be done to meet sustainable development goals (SDGs) 4 and 5 and the education 2030 targets.
However, Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, Southern Asia, and Northern Africa and Western Asia have made extreme progress in enhancing adult literacy over the past 26 years. But then, young women continue to lag behind young men as gender disparity remains constant in almost one in five nations. On the occasion of International Literacy Day, here we bring you some facts about literacy in the world.
- There are still 750 million illiterate adults, two-thirds of whom are women in the world
- There is remarkable progress on youth literacy as five decades ago 22% of people between the ages of 15 and 24 lacked basic literacy skills compared to 9% today
- Young people in Africa and Asia, particularly, are far more likely to be literate than they were half a century ago.
- In Southern Asia, the adult literacy rate rose from 46% in 1990 to 72% in 2016.
- During the same periods, in Northern Africa and Western Asia the adult literacy rate rose from 64% to 81%. While Eastern and South-Eastern Asia saw an increase from 82% to 96%, sub-Saharan Africa saw development from 52% to 65%, and Latin America and Caribbean saw from 85% to 94%.
- The youth literacy rate increased the most in Southern Asia – from 59% in 1990 to 89% in 2016.
- In Northern Africa and Western Asia, it rose from 80% to 90% and in sub-Saharan Africa, the growth is from 65% to 75%.
- However, young women continue to lag behind young men as gender disparity in youth literacy remains persistent in almost one in five countries.
- In 43 nations, primarily in Northern Africa and Western Asia, Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, young women aged 15 to 24 years are still less likely than young men to have basic reading and writing skill.
This is a clear sign of the persistent challenges that continue to hold girls back despite progress.