New literacy projections to 2015
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Many countries will miss EFA target to improve literacy among adults
According to a new UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) study, efforts to halve adult illiteracy rates by 2015, as agreed under the Education for All (EFA) targets, are likely to be met with limited success in many countries.
Education systems struggling to accommodate growing populations, maturing illiterate youth, and the marginalization of women and girls will continue to hinder progress.
The report focuses on 41 countries in four regions – including those participating in UNESCO’s Literacy Initiative for Empowerment (LIFE) – and presents data on adult and youth literacy from 1990 to 2010, as well as projections to 2015.
- Only three countries – China, Indonesia and Iran – are expected to reach or exceed the goal of halving adult illiteracy between 2000 and 2015.
- Brazil, Egypt, Eritrea, Mexico, and Timor-Leste are projected to come within 5 percentage points of the target.
- The remaining countries are projected to miss the goal by more than 5 percentage points.
- Five countries, all in sub-Saharan Africa, are estimated to be at least 20% below the target in 2015: Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Madagascar, and Mali.
Some progress seen among countries educating women
In countries that are making progress, this is often due to substantial improvements among adult women, who were typically at lower levels of literacy than men one or two decades ago. For example, between 2000 and 2015, female literacy rates are projected to more than double in Guinea, Niger, and Timor-Leste. Nevertheless, in nearly all countries, illiterate adults are overwhelmingly female, and are projected to remain so in 2015. The exception is Brazil, where women will likely account for 50% of the illiterate population in 2015.
In general, youth between 15 and 24 years have higher literacy rates and a smaller gender gap than the adult population, reflecting increased access to primary and secondary education among younger generations. Five countries – Brazil, China, Indonesia, Iran, and Mexico – are expected to reach near-universal youth literacy by 2015.