US $14 billion needed to achieve universal literacy in countries with lowest literacy rates and E-9 countries

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Paris: The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning calls on donors to close the funding gap
A new UNESCO cost analysis shows that US $14 billion(1) will be needed if the 20 countries with the lowest literacy rates(2) and the E-9 countries(3) are to achieve functional literacy and numeracy skills by 2030. The analysis highlights a funding gap of US $10 billion in the 20 countries with adult literacy rates below 50 per cent and US $4 billion among the E-9 countries, where the majority of the youth and adults with low literacy levels live.

David Atchoarena, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, says: ‘Of the approximately 750 million illiterate adults worldwide, 565 million live in 29 countries. Even if an increase in domestic resources with 5 per cent of the GDP being allocated to education and 3 per cent of the education budget invested in literacy is taken into account, these countries will only achieve universal literacy by 2030 with the support of the international community. This analysis shows how far we still have to go in meeting this target, in line with commitments made by world leaders as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. I call on donors worldwide to contribute to closing the current funding gap of US $14 billion.’

The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) will present this new cost analysis to the members of the UNESCO Global Alliance for Literacy at a meeting at UNESCO in Paris, France, on 10 September 2019. The study is authored by UIL, the UNESCO Division for Policies and Lifelong Learning Systems, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, in collaboration with the Global Education Monitoring Report team.

The study shows that the majority of youth and adults with poor literacy live in the Asia-Pacific region, with approximately 80 per cent of all illiterate youth and adults living in the E-9 countries. However, most non-E-9 countries such as Afghanistan, Haiti, South Sudan and others require significant external funding support since they will not be able to cover the costs from national budgets.

The authors of the study also underline that while basic data on literacy related costs exists there is a strong need for further data collection and research in order to enable well-informed decision-making in regards to the expansion of literacy programmes.

In addition to increased funding from both national governments and international partners, there is a need to enhance the coordination, planning, management and monitoring capacities of literacy management systems. The creation of a well-functioning literacy management system that coordinates all stakeholders will be a major challenge in many countries, the study found.