Okay, it’s not exactly as stated in the headline, here’s how it is – 61 nations were surveyed and South Africa emerged the sixth most illiterate nation among them. This is according to a descriptive rank-order study by the Central Connecticut State University which was enabled by variables that tested literacy achievement and the exemplification of literate behaviours across countries.
The World’s Most Literate Nations (WMLN) study which was launched this year, surveyed and ranked the 61 nations based on how well the countries support the literate behaviours of their populace. And from its findings, one can with mild authority state that South Africans are among the most illiterate humans of the world.
Mind you, the rankings were not done based on the nations populace’s ability to read but on their literate behaviours and resources that support those behaviours.
Precisely, the “rankings are based on five categories standing as indicators of the literate health of nations.” They include the following:
1. Libraries– This is indexed with 4 variables thus: number of academic libraries, number of public and school libraries, and the number of volumes in all public libraries.
2. Newspapers– Also indexed with 4 variables including
- Paid-for dailies: per capita number of titles of paid-for daily newspapers
- Circulation: per capita number of issues of paid-for daily newspapers printed daily
- Online editions: per capita number of daily newspapers on the Internet.
- Export of newspapers: per capita value expressed in USD of all newspapers exported to other countries
3. Computer Availability– Percentage of households with either a desktop or laptop computer (excludes other devices such as cell phones, personal digital assistants, or TVs).
4. Education Inputs– This involves years of schooling (the total number of years of compulsory education.) and public expenditure on education expressed as a percentage of GDP.
5. Education Outputs- Reading assessment scores for younger and older students.
South Africa took the 56th position, performing poorly in Computer (56th), newspapers (59th) and libraries (50th). Meanwhile, its education inputs and outputs came in the middle at 37th and 38th, respectively.
As shown in the study, eastern nations were more equipped for literacy than western nations, with European and Asian nations ranking higher overall.
All top-ranked countries in the world are from the Scandinavian region, led by Finland, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, and Switzerland. The United States ranked 7th overall, making it the first and only western nation among the top 10 countries, followed by Canada at the 11th position and Mexico far in the middle of the list at 38th.
The countries that ranked lowest on the list are all largely developing nations from Africa and central Asia – with Botswana ranked lowest at 61st, below Indonesia, Thailand, and Morocco.
Check out some of the rankings below:
|The United States||7||Australia||16||Italy||25|
According to WMLN, this ranking and world literacy strongly suggests and demonstrates that “literates behaviours are critical to the success of individuals and nations in the knowledge-based economies that define global future.”
A multidimensional approach to literacy, as related, “speaks to the social, economic, and governmental powers of nations around the globe…The power and value of being literate in a literate society are played out every day around the world.
Many individuals and even whole societies make considerable sacrifices to become literate just as others take it for granted. Societies that do not practice literate behaviour are often squalid, undernourished in mind and body, repressive of human rights and dignity, brutal, and harsh,” WMLN stated.
You can check out further details about the survey here.
95% of illiterate people in the world live in developing countries and as Africans, there are monumental hindrances to overcome in terms of both wiping out illiteracy and providing an adequate education. Most African nations have adult literacy rates below 50% and, in Sub-Saharan Africa alone, about 45 million children don’t go to school.
In a bid to counter inadequate education and overcome illiteracy, the South African government alongside the private sector and United Nations agencies such as UNICEF, in recent years, have formed a number of initiatives. While UNICEF’s Schools for Africa programme was established with the aim of increasing access to basic education for children all over Africa, the government of South Africa has also provided local support for the country’s illiterate adults through the Kha Ri Gude (‘Let us Learn’) programme, a mass literacy campaign which aims to reduce illiteracy.