<
 
 
 
 
×
>
You are viewing an archived web page, collected at the request of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) using Archive-It. This page was captured on 23:34:32 Oct 26, 2016, and is part of the UNESCO collection. The information on this web page may be out of date. See All versions of this archived page.
Loading media information hide
UNESCO.ORG The Organization Education Natural Sciences Social Sciences Culture Communication & Information
  Education for All by 2015
.::
Education Today Newsletter
Education for All Home February - May 2006
PREVIOUS ISSUES
EDITO
Learning World
LEARNING WORLD
 
Focus
FOCUS
   
Education for All
Education for All by 2015
 
Briefs
BRIEFS  
Bookshelf
Download the Newsletter
English

 

 

Can the numbers be trusted?


 

The 2006 Global Monitoring Report demonstrates the complexities of measuring literacy  

 

 
Nearly one-fifth of the world’s adult population – 771 million adults – lack the basic literacy skills vital to improve their livelihoods, according to the EFA Global Monitoring Report released in November 2005. But where does this number come from? Does it include migrant workers, nomads or refugees? And how accurate is it?

The Report makes cross-national comparison of literacy using data compiled by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). About two-thirds of the country statistics come from nationally-reported figures based on national censuses or surveys. UIS uses statistical models to provide estimates for the remaining countries. “The methods are not perfect but they are the best available,” says Aaron Benavot of the Report team.

It is difficult to compare national statistics as the definition of literacy and the way that data is compiled differs among various countries. A large majority conceives literacy as the ability to read and/or write simple statements in either a national or indigenous language but there are numerous nuances to this (see box).

Another factor affecting the accuracy of the figure is that most countries compile data using conventional methods that do not actually test whether a person is literate. One common method is for respondents to subjectively state whether they are literate, or the head of household determines the literacy level for each family member. Another method uses completed years of schooling as a proxy for whether a person is literate or not.

As a result, there has been a strong push over the past two decades to directly test literacy skills. Today, most experts prefer these alternative methods. “Direct assessments demonstrate that conventional evaluation methods often overstate literacy levels,” says Benavot. According to the Report, in a conventional assessment conducted in Morocco, 45% of the respondents said they were literate, yet only 33% could pass a simple reading test. Similar gaps are found in a number of countries.

Using only direct assessments to monitor regional or global literacy is not yet an option. The problem is that direct assessments of functional literacy skills are not standardized and can be time-consuming. The good news is that an increasing number of countries such as Botswana, Brazil, China, Ethiopia, Ghana, Lao PDR and Nicaragua have designed literacy surveys that provide more accurate pictures. Also, UIS is currently developing a new data collection instrument called the Literacy Assessment and Monitoring Programme (LAMP), which aims to provide internationally-comparable literacy data of a higher quality based on a continuum of literacy skills rather than the traditional view of literacy as a dichotomy – that a person is either literate or illiterate.

“The development of effective education programmes, and the advocacy for adequate levels of investment depend on the availability of valid, reliable, comparable data on literacy skills among the adult population,” says Michael Millward, acting Director of the UIS. “Improving our measures of literacy is strongly needed and programmes such as LAMP are a step in the right direction,” he adds.

Report Website: www.efareport.unesco.org
UIS Website: www.uis.unesco.org
UNESCO Literacy Portal:www.unesco.org/education/literacy

 
:: 2006
 

EDUCATING FOR TOMORROW WORLD
February - May 2006
:: 2005
 

WANTED! TEACHERS
January - March 2005
:: 2004
 

SCIENCE EDUCATION IN DANGER?
October - December 2004
THE PRICE OF SCHOOL FEES
July - September 2004
EDUCATING RURAL PEOPLE
April - June 2004
EDUCATION MINISTERS SPEAK OUT
January - March 2004
:: 2003
 

NEW TECHNOLOGIES: MIRAGE OR MIRACLE?
October - December 2003
THE MOTHER-TONGUE DILEMMA
July - September 2003
EDUCATION: WHO PAYS?
April - June 2003
EDUCATING TEENAGERS
January - March 2003
:: 2002
 

HIGHER EDUCATION FOR SALE
October - December 2002

LITERACY? YES. BUT WHEN?
July - September 2002

EDUCATION FOR WAR OR FOR PEACE?
April - June 2002

guest (Read)
About UNESCOContact the WEBMASTER    ID: 46263