Female literacy rates still lag behind young men – Unesco

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WHILE literacy rates for youth are rising, but young women and girls continue to lag behind young men, according to the new data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) Institute for Statistics (UIS) stressing that more than half of countries with data have youth literacy rates of 95 percent or higher.

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Unesco said female youth aged 15 to 24 are making the strongest gains, but in 2011, 87 percent of them had basic literacy skills, compared to 92 percent of males.

Despite the increase in literacy rates in the youth, 774 million adults aged 15 years old and above still cannot read or write, figures from the Unesco also revealed.

“Two-thirds or 493 million of them are women. Among the youth, 123 million are still illiterate where 76 million are female. Even though the size of the global illiterate population is shrinking, the female proportion has remained virtually steady at 63 percent to 64 percent,” Unesco said.

According to the data, South and West Asia have made one of the tremendous gains in improving adult and youth literacy over the past two decades. Between 1990 and 2011, adult literacy rate in South and West Asia increased from 47 percent to 63 percent and the youth literacy rate from 60 percent to 81 percent.

Despite this progress, the lowest literacy rates are observed in South and West Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The region of South and West Asia is also home to more than one-half of the global illiterate population [53 percent]. Also, 12 percent of all illiterate adults live in East Asia and the Pacific, 24 percent in sub-Saharan Africa, 6.2 percent in the Arab States and 4.6 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean.

By 2015, through the Education for All (EFA) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Central Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, East Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean are expected to be at or near universal youth literacy at 92 percent. The global adult literacy rate is also estimated to reach 86 percent by 2015.

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