Education for all? We're not there yet

31st January 2014 at 00:00
A third of nations fall far short of literacy targets, report reveals

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.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today