Literacy among youth is rising, but young women lag behind


Literacy rates among youth (aged 15 to 24) and adults are the test of an educational system, and the overall trend is positive, thanks to the expansion of educational opportunities. Globally, the youth literacy rate increased from 83 per cent to 91 per cent over two decades, while the number of illiterate youth declined from 170 million to 115 million. Regional and gender disparities persist, however. Literacy is lowest in least developed countries and higher among males than females. In the most recent years for which data are available, young women accounted for 59 per cent of the total illiterate youth population.

Data

  • Youth and adult literacy rates

    Download Data

Notes on the data

For a full picture of children’s school participation, UNICEF uses two sources of data: enrolment data, which are based on administrative records, and attendance data from household surveys. In half of all countries, data on primary and secondary education come from more than one source.  All data on primary and secondary education used by UNICEF are based on official International Standard Classifications of Education (ISCED) and may deviate somewhat from those used by country-specific school systems.

Definition of indicators

Gender parity index – The ratio of female-to-male values of a given indicator. A GPI of 1 indicates parity between the sexes.

Literacy rate – Total number of literate persons in a given age group, expressed as a percentage of the total population in that age group. The adult literacy rate measures literacy among persons aged 15 years and older, and the youth literacy rate measures literacy among persons aged 15 to 24 years.

Out-of-school population – Total number of primary or lower secondary-school-age children who are not enrolled in primary (ISCED 1) or secondary (ISCED 2 and 3) education.

Pre-primary school gross enrolment ratio – Number of children enrolled in pre-primary school, regardless of age, expressed as a percentage of the total number of children of official pre-primary school age.

Primary school gross enrolment ratio – Number of children enrolled in primary school, regardless of age, expressed as a percentage of the total number of children of official primary school age.

Primary school net attendance ratio – Number of children attending primary or secondary school who are of official primary school age, expressed as a percentage of the total number of children of official primary school age. Because of the inclusion of primary-school-age children attending secondary school, this indicator can also be referred to as a primary adjusted net attendance ratio.

Primary school net enrolment ratio – Number of children enrolled in primary or secondary school who are of official primary school age, expressed as a percentage of the total number of children of official primary school age. Because of the inclusion of primary-school-age children enrolled in secondary school, this indicator can also be referred to as a primary adjusted net enrolment ratio.

Secondary school net attendance ratio – Number of children attending secondary or tertiary school who are of official secondary school age, expressed as a percentage of the total number of children of official secondary school age. Because of the inclusion of secondary-school-age children attending tertiary school, this indicator can also be referred to as a secondary adjusted net attendance ratio.

Secondary school net enrolment ratio – Number of children enrolled in secondary school who are of official secondary school age, expressed as a percentage of the total number of children of official secondary school age. Secondary net enrolment ratio does not include secondary-school-age children enrolled in tertiary education, owing to challenges in age reporting and recording at that level.

Survival rate to last primary grade – Percentage of children entering the first grade of primary school who eventually reach the last grade of primary school.

References

  1. UNESCO, Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2013/14: Teaching and Learning – Achieving Quality for All, UNESCO, Paris, 2014.
  2. UNESCO Institute for Statistics, global databases, 2014.
  3. UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Global Education Digest 2012, Opportunities Lost: The impact of grade repetition and early school leaving, UIS, Montreal, 2012.
  4. UNICEF, The State of the World’s Children 2015: Reimagine the Future – Innovation for Every Child, UNICEF, New York, 2014.