More than a third of countries will still be "very far" from achieving universal adult literacy by next year, a new report warns.
The number of illiterate adults remains "stubbornly high" according to the 2013-14 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco). In 2011, 774 million adults were illiterate, it finds - a drop of just 1 per cent since 2000.
The Education for All framework, established in 2000, set a goal of 97 per cent adult literacy by 2015, but the report says that only 29 per cent of countries will reach this target next year, and 37 per cent will still be very far from it.
Too few countries offer genuine second chances to illiterate adults, the report adds. As a result, nations with a legacy of poor access to education have been unable to eradicate adult illiteracy.
Ten countries are responsible for almost three-quarters of the world's illiterate adults. India, with 287 million, accounts for more than any other nation. In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of illiterate adults has actually increased by 37 per cent since 1990, mainly as a result of population growth.
Perhaps most worryingly of all, almost two-thirds of the global total are women, and there has been no progress in reducing this share since 1990. The report warns that the poorest young women in developing countries may not achieve universal literacy until 2072.