LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - One out of four young people in poor countries - and one of three young women in South and West Asia - are unable to read all or even part of a sentence, according to a new report, which estimates 175 million youths in developing countries are illiterate.
If current trends continue, the poorest part of the young female population in developing countries won’t achieve literacy until 2072, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) said in its annual Education for All Global Monitoring Report.
UNESCO noted that despite some progress, the goal of achieving gender parity, or equal enrolment ratios for boys and girls, in primary and secondary schools by 2005 had been missed.
In primary education 60 percent of the countries surveyed achieved gender parity by 2011, compared with a fifth of low income countries. The report found Afghanistan and Pakistan to be the countries with fewer girls in school: 71 girls for every 100 boys in the former and 82 girls for every 100 boys in the latter.
Young women in Afghanistan are even less likely to enrol in secondary education, despite some improvements in the last two decades. In 1999, no girls attended secondary school in Afghanistan, compared to 34 percent in 2011. One million children were out school in the country in 2011, the report said.
In Yemen, just 36 percent of young women are literate.
Women make up two-thirds of illiterate adults around the world, a figure that has remained largely unchanged for over two decades.
Most countries with high levels of gender disparity in access to both primary and secondary education are in sub-Saharan Africa. The Central African Republic has made no progress in putting girls in school, and it now has the second highest level of gender disparity in the world, after Afghanistan, the report said.
Burkina Faso on the other hand has made fast progress, thanks to a government plan focused on girls’ education and other aid-supported initiatives that have created a more gender-balanced education system.
The report noted that enrolment ratios are not necessarily indicative of gender equality in a country’s schools as many factors weight in, such as providing girls with a safe learning environment.
Access to education is not the only obstacle to the achievement of the Millenium Development Goal (MDG) on education by 2015, UNESCO said. Funding misspent on poor quality education amounts to 10 percent of global spending on primary education, according to the report.
In its recommendations, UNESCO urged governments to concentrate their efforts in getting the best teachers to work with the most marginalised students in remote, underserved areas.