A Snapshot of Literacy Worldwide
Posted by Laura McLoughlin on May 04, 2021 in categoryFacts & ResearchcategoryNews

Low literacy is a global crisis. We often hear about the how increasing literacy rates in the U.S. would impact our economy, health care system, and communities, but what impact would improving literacy on a worldwide scale have? 


ProLiteracy’s mission extends beyond the United States to create a more literate world. To do this, we work directly with 21 partner programs in 35 countries to bring literacy training to local programs through teacher training, technical assistance with materials, and by using our Literacy for Social Change model. By framing literacy instruction around topics relevant to the learners such as health, economic empowerment, human rights, the environment, or other social needs, we are able to also give people the knowledge they need to improve their lives. 


In an effort to serve adult literacy programs worldwide, we strive to be aware of the global state of adult literacy. Recently we re-examined our statistics to provide a snapshot of where literacy stands worldwide. Some of the most staggering statistics include: 

  • 750 million adults around the world lack basic reading and writing skills 

  • Women are disproportionately burdened by low literacy and account for two-thirds of the world’s low-literate population 

  • As of 2019, only 47 percent of people in developing countries had access to the internet 

  • 49 percent of the world’s low-literate population can be found in one place—southern Asia 

  • Nearly 200,000 maternal deaths could be avoided if girls completed primary school 

As we work to improve these statistics and advance literacy around the world, our approach will continue to focus on equipping programs with the training and materials they need to address literacy in the areas of: fundamental skills, critical thinking, cultural expression, and learner-initiated action. By meeting people where they are and addressing their basic needs, we can empower them to improve their lives. 


Learn more about our international initiatives on our website.  


To help literacy programs worldwide take advantage of all of ProLiteracy’s available resources, we offer an International Membership option.  


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