ABU DHABI, -- The increase in reading and writing proficiency among women is a result of the significant uptick in their enrolment and completion of primary education over the last five decades, even as overall funding for adult literacy has remained low, a recently-launched study by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, has found.

The publication, "Reading the past, writing the future: Fifty years of promoting literacy", marks the "uplifting and sobering" fiftieth anniversary of UNESCO's efforts to mark global progress on literacy, celebrated annually on 8th September as International Literacy Day. The authors of the current report examine the nature and evolution of the educational challenge, and take stock of literacy initiatives worldwide.

The spread of literacy among women has been a key feature of the past fifty years. However, the gap between male and female literacy rates only started narrowing from 1990 onwards. UNESCO projects that it is likely to keep unfolding over the period of 2015-30 and beyond.

While various positive trends are highlighted, Qian Tang, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, in the publication's foreword, calls for "renewed and strengthened commitment to support literacy promotion for all, including the 758 million youth and adults currently excluded from the networks of written communication."

The authors note that around 1950, just over half of all the world's people were reported as being literate. Since then, they state, the adult literacy rate has increased by five percentage points every decade on average, to 86 per cent in 2015.

One of the report's main findings is that there are now more illiterate adults compared with 50 years ago, meaning that literacy efforts have not kept pace with population growth, a trend Mr. Tang finds "troubling".

The UN's educational agency identifies sufficient resources for education as one of the bottlenecks for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically Goal 4, on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, including for the large and growing group of illiterate adults. The authors find that funding for adult education and literacy has rarely been adequate.

UNESCO claims that lack of funding is one of the reasons why progress continues to be slow in certain regions and countries. Among the surveyed countries, only four devote 3 per cent or more of their educational budget to adult education.

Total aid to education by the members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, is about 1.4 per cent of their total aid budget, according to the UNESCO report, with only a few OECD-members devoting more than 3 per cent of their individual funding to education. WAM/MMYS

Source: Emirates News Agency