Literacy, the ability to read and write, is one of the top goals of education. This articles details US literacy rates and literacy statistics from other countries. Besides literacy statistics, a summary of the current state of literacy is provided.
What Makes Literacy Important?
Literacy is important for many reasons. For one thing, it is important because it runs in families: literate parents are more likely to ensure educational opportunities for their children. In addition, literacy foster life-long learning. A literate populace helps a society meet the changing demands as the world develops. In terms of socio-economics, literacy is fundamental to many jobs. In democracies, literacy is an essential quality for a citizen, whose role in electing the government depends heavily on literacy. But more than that, literacy is now considered to be a human right.
What Is the Current State of Literacy?
UNESCO estimates that twenty percent of all adults, or 774 million, are not literate. Of those who aren’t literate, two-thirds are women. In addition, there are 75 million children who are not attending school and therefore not on the path to become literate.
The United Nations has established 2003-2012 as the United Nations Literacy Decade. The goal of this decade is to increase literacy rates internationally, with special emphasis on reaching the poorest people and those who have been most marginalized.
The Most and Least Literate Countries in Regions of the World - Literacy Rates by Country
UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, keeps track of literacy statistics. There is no information available for certain countries. Analysis of their latest data set from 2007 provides the following insights (but do remember that the data is not complete):
- The most literate of the Arab States is Kuwait, with an estimated 93.9% literacy rate.
- The least literate of the Arab States is Morocco, with an estimated 55.6% literacy rate.
- In several of the Arab States, the literacy rate for women is in the 40’s for percentile rank, and quite a bit lower than the rate for men.
- The most literate nations in Central and Eastern Europe are Estonia and Latvia, with an estimated 99.8% literacy rate. Belarus, Lithuania, Slovenia, and Ukraine are close behind with an estimated 99.7%.
- The least literate of the nations in Central and Eastern Europe is Turkey, with an estimated 88.7% literacy rate.
- The most literate nations in Central Asia is Turkmenistan, with an estimated 99.5% literacy rate.
- The most literate nation in East Asia and the Pacific is Tonga, with an estimated 99.2% literacy rate.
- The least literate nation in East Asia and the Pacific is Papua New Guinea, with an estimated 57.8% literacy rate.
- The most literate nation in Latin America and the Caribbean is Cuba, with an estimated 99.8% literacy rate.
- The least literate nation in Latin America and the Caribbean is Haiti, with an estimated 62.1% literacy rate.
- The most literate nation in North America and Western Europe is Italy, with an estimated 98.9% literacy rating. Many countries, including the United States, are lacking from this data.
- The least literate nation in North America and Western Europe is Malta, with an estimated 91.6% literacy rating.
- The most literate nation in South and West Asia is Maldives, with an estimated 97.0% literacy rating.
- The least literate nation in South and West Asia is Bangladesh, with an estimated 53.5% literacy rating.
- The most literate nation in Sub-Saharan Africa is Zimbabwe, with an estimated 91.2% literacy rate.
- The least literate nation in Sub-Saharan Africa is Burkina Fasa, with an estimated 28.7% literacy rate.
Literacy Statistic Sources
Written by Mary Elizabeth