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UNESCO Calls for Greater Resources for Literacy

UNESCO Calls for Greater Government, Donor Resources for Universal Literacy

New York, Nov 10 2005 3:00PM

With more than 770 million adults living without basic literacy skills, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is calling on governments and donor countries to contribute more resources towards the Education for All (EFA) programme, thereby reducing poverty.

"The powerful links that exist between adult literacy and better health, higher income, more active citizenship and children's education should act as strong incentives for governments and donors to be much more proactive on addressing the literacy deficit," UNESCO's Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said yesterday on the release of the latest EFA report.

The fourth edition of the EFA Global Monitoring Report finds that governments and donor countries are curtailing progress towards EFA – and broader poverty reduction – by according only marginal attention to the 771 million adults living without basic literacy skills.

The Education for All movement took off at the World Conference on Education for All in 1990 in Jomtien, Thailand. Since then, governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society groups, bilateral and multilateral donor agencies and the media have taken up the cause of providing basic education for all children, youth and adults.

The Report calls for a dramatic scaling up of youth and adult literacy programmes. This will require more domestic resources; typically, governments only allocate 1 per cent of their national education budget to adult literacy. It estimates that some $26 billion dollars are needed over the next decade to make significant progress towards halving the level of adult illiteracy by the global goal of 2015.

On current trends, 30 out of 73 countries assessed are at serious risk of missing this goal, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa but also including Algeria, Guatemala, India, Nepal, Nicaragua and Pakistan.

According to the Report, three quarters of the world's adult illiterates live in 12 countries: India, China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Egypt, Brazil, Iran, Morocco and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

South and West Asia has the lowest regional adult literacy rate at 58.6 per cent, followed by Sub-Saharan Africa with 59.7 per cent, and the Arab States with 62.7 per cent. Countries with the lowest adult literacy rates in the world are Burkina Faso with 12.8 per cent, Niger with 14.4 per cent and Mali with 19 per cent.

Reflecting deep-seated gender inequalities in many societies, women account for 64 per cent of the adults worldwide who cannot read or write with understanding. This figure is virtually unchanged from 63 per cent in 1990.

Although adult literacy rates doubled in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Arab States and South and West Asia from 1970 to 2000, the rate of progress has slowed considerably since 1990. On present trends, only 86 per cent of the world's adults will be literate by 2015, up from 82 per cent today.


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