Sep 08 2013

Only 9 countries

UNESCO has a new finding: 54 million of the world’s 76 million illiterate young women live in just 9 countries.

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Notice that Bangladesh is the one place on the list where there are more illiterate young men. I wonder why that is.


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  1. 1

    UNESCO is putting out multiple tweets with facts, links, and stories for International Literacy Day, 8 September, under the hashtags #LiteracyDay and #ILD2013.

    UNESCO Literacy Day page

    One example:

    Discover @RoomtoRead’s efforts to improve children’s lives worldwide thru remarkable #literacy projects

    http://ow.ly/oF8CN #LiteracyDay

  2. 2

    For Bangladesh, it could be because so many men rely on Hindi (instead of their native Bengali) to acquire decent wages. Or it could be random variance.

  3. 3

    Maybe selective abortion and infanticide have shifted the demographics in Bangladesh?

  4. 4

    I think it could be bigger issues affecting Bangladesh. Their fertility rate since the 1970s dropped from 6.9 to 2.2 in the latest available figures. The demographer Hans Rosling calls it the “Bangladesh Miracle”, in a presentation he joked that there were forces stronger than religion operating in the bedroom. Perhaps better educated women caused the decline in fertility rates or it could be the other way round.

  5. 5

    Actually, the source you give says “54 million of the world’s 76 million illiterate women live in just 9 countries.” This is almost certainly untrue: Elsewhere- http://www-01.sil.org/literacy/LitFacts.htm – UNESCO says about a thousand million people in the world are illiterate and about two-thirds of them are women, which sounds much more probable, unfortunately. It also says that 52% live in India and China.
    What exactly is the source for the claim that 54 million of the world’s 76 million illiterate young women live in just 9 countries? How do they define “young women” and distinguish between them and older children and older women?

  6. 6

    I notice I gave an out-of-date figure for literacy above: the current estimate is about 773.5 million illiterate adults: http://www.uis.unesco.org/literacy/Documents/fs26-2013-literacy-en.pdf How reliable it is is another matter. It looks as if the definition of young women- or “youth” used is between 15 and 24 years old.

  7. 7

    sc(etc): Thanks for digging up the definition of ‘young’ being used here–it does help. But one reason for focusing on that population is that it gives us a good idea how the countries in question are currently handling education and literacy issues.

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