India, Pak Slow, China Ahead - Race For Literacy

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New Delhi, Nov 30 (UNI) India and Pakistan are at ''serious risk'' of not achieving universal literacy by 2015, while China has a ''high chance'' of achieving it, a study commissioned by a United Nations agency said today.

The study warned that India and Pakistan are among 25 nations at ''serious risk of not achieving'' Adult Literacy goal 164 governments set for themselves at a meeting in Dakar, Senegal in April 2000.

Adult literacy was one of six goals the world community vowed to achieve under a pledge of Education For All.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation has periodically commissioned ''independent'' studies to monitor progress.

The EFA Global Monitoring Report 2008 addresses the question: Education For All By 2015 - Will We Make It ? The Report said that of 127 countries for which data was available Russian Federation and 25 other countries-- mostly Central and Eastern European or Central Asian-- had reached levels close to universal literacy-- above 97 per cent.

The remaining 101 countries were categorised as 53 slow performers and 48 fast performers, 58 of them having attained 80-96 per cent literacy rates, while 43 countries registered less than 80 per cent literacy rates.

The 101 nations were divided thus into four quadrants: -- I quadrant of 30 countries which stand a high chance of achieving the adult literacy target by 2015 include China, Maldives, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia as well as several Latin and Caribbean countries; They have 80-96 per cent adult literacy rates and are making ''steady progress.'' -- II quadrant of 18 countries-- including Bangladesh and Nepal-- which are moving rapidly towards the target but have ''low chance of achieving the target by 2015'' due to low starting positions.

-- III quadrant of 28 countries-- Myanmar and Sri Lanka among them-- have 80-96 per cent adult literacy rates but are ''at risk of not achieving the target by 2015'' because their progress is ''too slow.'' -- IV quadrant of 25 countries-- including India, Pakistan, Algeria, Iraq, Nigeria, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia-- which have less than 80 per cent adult literacy rates and whose progress is ''too slow.'' The Report said most of the IV quadrant countries are in sub-Saharan Africa, besides Asia and Latin America.

''For these countries, more efforts are needed to provide learning opportunities to adults and to accelerate progress, especially as several have or will have achieved universal primary enrolment, including all those in Asia-- other than Pakistan-- and Latin America.

The United States, Britain, Germany, France-- where UNESCO headquarters is located-- Australia, Canada, Sweden, Norway and Denmark were ''not included in the prospects analysis.'' They were clubbed in a list of 76 nations along with Solomon Islands, Comoros and Seychelles for ''insufficient or no data.'' The Report called the group ''very mixed'', including as it does developed countries or countries in transition close to achieving literacy, as well as others, including several in sub-Saharan Africa, which pose concern in the context of literacy expansion.

UNESCO spokeswoman Sue Williams told United News of India Special Correspondent Mukesh Jhangiani the problem had to do with different measuring techniques some developed countries use, such as testing.

Using such data for comparison can yield unfair results, Williams said.

An account published in June 2004 cited official estimate that the number of illiterates in the US, for instance, was 40 million-- 'literate' meaning someone with the ability to read a menu, a road sign and a traffic ticket.

The Carnegie Council report pointed out that democracy is a much harder form of government than monarchy or autocracy as it requires participation of citizens and assumes a degree of literacy on their part.

Afghanistan, Bhutan, Fiji, Guyana, Haiti, Israel, Japan and Switzerland are some of the other 76 countries.

The Dakar EFA goals also include early childhood care and education, universal primary education, learning needs of young and adults, gender parity up to secondary education and quality.

UNI

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