Research published on by Unesco, the UN’s educational, scientific and cultural body, suggests that 170 million young people lack even basic literacy skills.
“Access [to education] is not the only crisis – poor quality is holding back learning even for those who make it to school,” said Unesco director-general, Irina Bokova, in a foreword to the 11th annual Education for All global monitoring report, which measures progress towards global goals.
According to the report an estimated 240 million children are not learning basic reading and maths skills, even though half of them have spent at least four years in school. This “global learning crisis” costs developing countries billions of dollars a year in wasted education funding. In 2011 there were 774 million illiterate adults, a decline of 1% since 2000. This figure is projected to fall only slightly, to 743 million, by 2015.
According to the report ten countries – India, Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Brazil, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – account for almost three-quarters of the world’s illiterate adults. Almost two-thirds of illiterate adults are women.
Many developing countries have rapidly increased their teacher numbers by hiring people without training. This may help get more children into school but it puts education quality in jeopardy. “What’s the point in an education if children emerge after years in school without the skills they need?”
According to the Unesco report, no country is projected to reach all the goals – which cover early childhood care, primary and secondary schooling, adult literacy, gender equality and educational quality – by the deadline.