World illiteracy down for first time in history

June 1991
Reading Today;Jun/Jul91, Vol. 8 Issue 6, p17
This article focuses on the international illiteracy rate, as of July 1991. According to the report released by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in May 1991, the number of illiterates in the world dropped by 2 million between 1985 and 1990, to an estimated 948 million. A further decline to 935 million is projected for the year 2000. World illiteracy rates have steadily increased over the years, spurred by rapid population growth. According to the report, the number of illiterate people in the world rose from an estimated 890 million in 1970 to 950 million in 1985. Among adults, the findings were equally encouraging. The percentage of adult illiterates in the world dropped from an estimated 38.5 percent in 1970 to 26.6 percent in 1990. The projected rate for 2000 is 21.8 percent. Encouraging as these statistics may be as proof that illiteracy can be vanquished, the progress they documented is painfully slow. The report says that one of the results of the International Literacy Year in industrialized countries has been increased awareness of and commitment to eliminating functional illiteracy, which affects between 10 and 20 percent of the world's population.


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