Many would argue that literacy is one of the most neglected goals of the movement towards Education for All. Several Asian countries have reported spectacular progress since the 1990s. Yet globally, the numbers and distributions of illiterate adults have hardly changed over the past 50 years primarily because of population growth.
Some 774 million adults – about one-fifth of the world’s population – are unable to read and write. In sub-Saharan Africa, there are now more illiterate adults than there were in 1990.
This report traces paradigm shifts in the understanding and measurement of literacy over the past five decades. It provides analysis of the current situation based on conventional statistics, while explaining changes in UIS methodologies and measures. For researchers and practitioners in international development, it serves as a practical guide on the interpretation of conventional literacy statistics. It also highlights emerging statistical issues and methodologies, including the use of assessment data produced through initiatives such as the Literacy Assessment and Monitoring Programme of the UIS.
The UIS is responsible for monitoring literacy and its contribution to international development goals.
- Report available in English (French version forthcoming)
- Consult the UIS Data Centre for literacy statistics