Post-2015 education framework: Literacy

‘Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory.’

    Article 26, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

Education was declared a fundamental human right over 60 years ago and yet we still face a situation where 57 million children globally don’t even have access to a place of learning, let alone to opportunity of a quality education. In 1990, 150 countries around the world committed to the world declaration on Education for All (EfA) and 10 years later in Dakar, Senegal, the 6 goals of EfA were established and set to last until 2015.

Number 4 of those goals was:

‘Achieving a 50 per cent improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults’

However, as of September 2013, there were still 773.5 million illiterate adults globally, in countries such as Guinea total adult literacy only stands at 25%. There is also a worrying trend of female literacy trailing behind men’s, for example, in Afghanistan, female literacy is three times lower than male literacy. While this is probably the starkest contrast of any nation, the trend exists in the majority of developing countries.

The current youth literacy rate stands at 89.5% meaning there are still 123.2 million children unable to read. Literacy is arguably the most fundamental skill children in developing countries need. Being able to read and write sparks communication which sparks dialogue which is what is needed for young people to discuss and debate the issues in their countries so that they can make the changes they want to see independently.


The proposed framework suggests all young people (15-24) should be fully literate by 2025 and that all adults (15+) should be literate by 2030. Again these seem like well-meaning and well-intentioned aspirations but the real questions lies in the ‘how?’.

The upcoming Fund the Future GCE replenishment fund will see the GCE/GPE relying heavily on the private sector and governmental organisations such as DFID to fund the plans for global education crafted by the NGOs and charities in the GPE. To guarantee maximum investment and ROI, achievable, realistic targets with proper monitoring and evaluation will be necessary to assuage the fears and doubts of corporate and governmental backers.


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