World Education Facts*
Sub-Saharan Africa has one of the world’s lowest adult literacy rates, with only 60 percent of the population 15 and over able to read and to write in 2000, well below the world average of 80 percent.
The figure was below 40 percent in Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger and Senegal. Women account for nearly two-thirds of the illiterates, a figure not expected to change much by 2015.
Most countries show substantial gender gaps, with female literacy no more than half that of males in Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mozambique and Niger.
South and West Asia
South and West Asia has the world’s lowest adult literacy rates, with only 55 percent of the population 15 and over able to read and to write in 2000, far below the world average of 80 percent.
Almost half the globe’s illiterates live in the region and their number is growing, mainly in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Almost two-thirds of the region’s adult illiterates are women (412 million), a proportion expected to increase slightly by 2015 on present trends. Substantial gender gaps to the disadvantage of women are found in most countries, and Nepal and Pakistan have fewer than five literate women to 10 men.
East Asia and the Pacific
The average adult literacy rate has steadily improved, from 80 percent in 1990 to 87 percent in 2000, according to estimates from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.
The number of illiterate individuals have been substantially reduced – by 20 percent, from 233 to 186 million – mostly thanks to efforts in China. With sustained effort, the region as a whole will probably achieve the EFA goal of a 50 percent improvement in adult literacy by 2015, though this may not happen in Cambodia, the Lao PDR, and Papua New Guinea where literacy rates are below 70 percent.
*Data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) website (2008) http://portal.unesco.org/education.