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Reading about Problem of Illiteracy in Egypt… Indicators and Proposals

Illiteracy is one of the most serious problems that countries of the world suffer from, especially developing countries, which cannot be ignored due to its negative effects on the social, economic, political and environmental levels. It is like a disease that destroys the investments and economic plans of societies, hinders their progress, and obstructs the development process and reform programs in them.

Illiteracy is a problem that transforms human and life, and makes him rigid in his thinking and his quest for change and development, as the illiterate person becomes a crippling force that cannot deal with modern production mechanisms and cannot implement development plans, especially since illiteracy has become not only limited to ignorance of the basics of reading and writing, but has also included Digital and technological illiteracy in light of successive technical developments experienced by all peoples of the earth.

if the development plans are based mainly on the economy, the environment and society, yet the human being remains the main pillar of it, and his development and the development of his capabilities are no less important than the development of the wealth of countries and their natural resources, and the availability of education and eradicating illiteracy of individuals is the way to this development and the transit corridor to improve the quality of life and eradicate poverty and build Human.

In view of the spread of illiteracy in quantity and quality, and the seriousness of this matter on the security and stability of societies, the Strategic Forum for Public Policies and Development Studies “Draya” issues a report that monitors indicators of illiteracy at the international, Arab and local levels, and the reasons for the high rates of illiteracy in Egypt and its implications, in addition to shedding light on The efforts of the Egyptian state to address and reduce the problem, with a presentation of some recommendations that may contribute to developing a more comprehensive vision for the decision-maker to reduce and completely eliminate illiteracy rates in Egypt within a specific timeline.

This report monitors the issue of “literacy” through several axes:

First: Indicators of illiteracy globally and in the Arab world.

Second: Indicators of illiteracy in Egypt.

Third: The reasons for the high rates of illiteracy in Egypt.

Fourth: the effects resulting from the high rates of illiteracy locally.

Fifth: The efforts of the Egyptian state to eradicate illiteracy.

Sixth: proposals to solve the problem of illiteracy.

First: illiteracy indicators globally and in the Arab world

The central agency for public mobilization and statistics monitored illiteracy indicators globally and in the Arab world, and the Arab Organization for Education, Culture and science (Alesco) issued a report for 2021 clarifying the situation of the problem of illiteracy in the world in general, and in the Arab countries in particular, which came as follows:

1. Indicators at the global level:

– Chad and Guinea have the highest illiteracy rates in the world, with 77.7% and 69.6% respectively for individuals aged 15 and over of the total population .

– 17% of the world’s population (15 years and older) still do not know how to read and write, that is, about 781 million illiterates in South and West Asia and sub-Saharan Africa out of all illiterates in the world, according to UNESCO statistics.

– South and West Asia recorded the highest numbers of illiterates belonging to the age group of 15 years and over at 47.5% of the total number of illiterates in the world in the same age group, followed by sub-Saharan Africa at 26.5%, then East Asia and the Pacific 10.6%

– The illiteracy rate among males is about 36% and females 64% globally.

2-indicators at the Arab level:

– 21% illiteracy rate in the Arab world, where one in five people (15 years and older) suffer from illiteracy.

– Somalia and Mauritania come as the highest Arab countries in the percentage of illiteracy (15 years and over), where the illiteracy rates are 62.2% and 48%, respectively.

– Bahrain is the lowest Arab country in terms of the illiteracy rate among its population aged 15 years and over at 2.5%, which is among the lowest rates globally

– There are some Arab countries where the illiteracy rate has not exceeded 10%, namely (Qatar, Palestine, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait).

– The Arab region accounts for 9% of the total number of illiterate people in the world.

The increase in the number of illiterate people in the Arab region is due to the suffering of many countries from unrest, armed conflicts, security and political instability and the decline in the deterioration of the economic situation (Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Libya)

Second: illiteracy indicators in Egypt

Illiteracy is one of the oldest social phenomena in Egyptian society, and one of the most complex problems due to the multiplicity and interweaving of its dimensions, and the most severe impact on the low results of development programs and plans in general. The most prominent indicators of the problem are as follows according to the statistics issued by the central agency for public mobilization and statistics:

The illiteracy rate reached 17.9% (10 years and over) in 2021, the lowest in 45 years, according to data from the 2021 labor force survey.

The largest illiteracy rate is among the elderly, where the age group (60 years and over) recorded the highest illiteracy rate at 63.4%, and the illiteracy rate among individuals under 45 years of age decreased to 17.2%.

The percentage of illiteracy among young people aged (15:35 ) years has decreased to less than 16.1% among the illiterate, while the younger age groups (under 20 years old) recorded 6.6% as the lowest percentage of illiterate in the 2017

The illiteracy rate for males was 21.2% compared to 30.8% for females in 2017, a decrease of 1.2% for males and 6.5% for females compared to the 2006 census.

Upper Egypt recorded the highest illiteracy rates in Egypt, with Minya topping the highest illiteracy rates with 37.2% .

The border governorates recorded the lowest illiteracy rates, as the Red Sea governorates are the lowest in illiteracy rates with a percentage of 12% in the 2017 census.

Egypt ranks seventh among the Arab countries, 23rd in Africa and 32nd globally in illiteracy rates.

In the latest statistics issued by the General Authority for adult education on illiteracy rates in the governorates of the Republic until 30/9 in 2022, with the addition of dropout rates for the age group (15 years and over), the results were as follows:

– Minya topped the governorates of the Republic in the percentage of illiteracy by 35.5%, followed by Assiut governorate by 33.9%, Fayoum by 33.6%, and Beheira by 32.8%

– The border governorates came the lowest in illiteracy rates, topped by South Sinai governorate with 7.9%, followed by the New Valley governorate with 9.1% and the Red Sea with 9.5%

– The results also showed a significant disparity in the illiteracy rates between males and females, as the total illiterate males at the level of all governorates reached 19.9% and the percentage of females reached 29%.

These results indicate that the upper level governorates have the highest illiteracy rates, perhaps due to the increase in poverty rates in these governorates and the lack of school numbers, which leads to an increase in the rates of children dropping out of education and enrolling them early in the labor market to be one of the sources of income for the family.

As for the low illiteracy rates in the border governorates, this is mainly due to the decrease in the total population of these governorates .

It should be noted that the disparity in illiteracy rates between males and females is largely due to Old Customs and traditions that favor male education over females, and many families, especially the poor, resort to enrolling girls in the labor market, especially as domestic workers or marrying them early so that these families can get rid of the material burdens of girls

Third: Reasons for  high illiteracy rates in Egypt

There are many reasons for the high illiteracy rates in Egypt, namely the following:

1-Economic Reasons: poverty leads to an increase in the number of illiterates and also an important reason for the inability of many families to educate their children, the family’s economic poverty may lead to their inability to pay educational expenses, and prefer to employ children at an early age so that they are a source of family income.

2-Cultural Reasons : there are still some customs and traditions prevalent in the Egyptian society, which believes that girls in particular do not have a need for education, but it is better to marry them at an early age and get rid of their material burdens, which has contributed significantly to the increase in illiteracy rates among girls, especially in rural communities.

3-Social Reasons: the death of one or both parents may lead to the children bearing the material burdens of the family, and the student’s illness, especially if it is continuous or suffering from some disability, may not complete his educational career, but the student’s continuous failure may also lead to leaving school and joining the labor market early.

4-Demographic Reasons: the huge increase in population and reproductive rates is one of the most important reasons for the inability of the state to provide schools and educational facilities in line with this increase, especially with regard to the primary stage, as well as the lack of financial resources available for education.

5-legislative and legal Reasons: the failure to activate the legislation on literacy, and the absence of legislation obliging the illiterate to erase their illiteracy

6-Geographical reasons: Upper Egypt and rural governorates suffer from a significant shortage in the number of schools and educational facilities compared to urban governorates, which contributed to the increase in the number of illiterates, especially the governorates of the tribal face

7-Educational reasons: there is still a lack of linking the educational system with the real needs of the environment and the labor market, which led to the reluctance of many to continue their educational career because they believe the futility of the educational process.

Fourth:  Effects of illiteracy in Egypt

Illiteracy entails many negative and destructive consequences for the individual and society, the most prominent of which are:

1-high poverty rates: illiteracy leads to high poverty rates in Egypt as it is one of the direct reasons for the increase in unemployment rates and the decrease in the percentage of skilled labor among the labor categories available in the markets

2-disruption of sustainable development plans: an illiterate person constitutes a major obstacle to the state in achieving its plans for the development of society, as this person cannot exploit the resources of available wealth, deal with technological developments and benefit from them, thereby wasting the state’s available resources

3-high rates of population increase: many studies have proven a direct relationship between high illiteracy rates and population increase, which represents a significant burden on the state’s resources and capabilities.

4-increased rates of violence and crime: all statistics indicate a close relationship between the increase in the number of illiterates and the high frequency of violence and crime in society. The education and culture of people leads to an increase in their abilities to cope with challenges better and more consciously and a decrease in their criminal and violent inclinations

Fifth: the Egyptian state’s efforts to eradicate illiteracy

The Egyptian state has suffered for many decades from high illiteracy rates and the resulting risks to society as a whole and its development process, so the current political leadership has paid great attention to this problem, and sought to reduce it, and over the past years has been keen to find solutions to address it, which goes beyond just literacy education, to include awareness development and skills education, most notably the following:

1-Inclusion of literacy in Egypt’s Vision 2030

2-the Egyptian state has developed a strategic plan “to declare Egypt free of illiteracy by 2030”, especially in the villages of Upper Egypt, its countryside and places suffering from large population density.

3- launching an electronic platform for remote adult education using some technological applications so that students can deal with it easily

4-increasing online literacy classes, especially in rural areas and cities of Upper Egypt

5- launching the ” decent life without illiteracy “initiative in cooperation between the Ministry of solidarity and the National Commission for literacy and adult education in the target villages through the Presidential Initiative” decent life” of 1,409 in 52 administrative centers in 20 governorates.

6- launching a digital platform to broadcast training materials for teachers of literacy and adult education.

7- launching the ” literacy of one million citizens ” campaign in coordination with the General Authority for adult education and Al-Azhar Al-Sharif under the umbrella of ” a decent life. “.

8-providing job opportunities for young graduates in literacy projects and programs through the free contract system

9- The establishment of new specializations in the Faculty of Education under the name of “adult education”, and the obligation of university students to erase the literacy of a certain number of illiterates.

10-10-training 58,147 teachers, mentors and technical followers at the adult education authority on literacy programs in order to increase the number of teachers specialized in adult literacy.

11- Preparing and approving new curricula in adult education by the Public Authority for Adult Education.

These efforts have eliminated the illiteracy of about 5 million people since 2014, according to the president of the General Authority for adult education. Egypt was also awarded the UNESCO Prize 2021 as one of the top 10 countries that implemented literacy programs.

Sixth: Proposals to solve the problem of illiteracy in Egypt

Despite the efforts made by the state, the number of illiterate people in Egypt is still large, which requires more efforts. The report therefore recommends the following:

1-reviewing the state strategies for adult education and working to update and develop them continuously.

2-the creation of mobile educational centers that can reach all illiterate people in all governorates and cities of the Republic, especially remote and border areas.

3- Increase the number of Community Schools in rural and Upper Egypt villages.

4- -increase and support female education programs in the poorest villages.

5-linking obtaining a public service certificate with the education of a certain number of dropouts from education in cooperation with the Ministry of social solidarity .

6-motivating university youth and giving them material and social benefits if they participate in literacy programs.

7-working to involve civil society institutions in the development and implementation of literacy plans in Egypt .

8-establishing a large and detailed database in coordination between the adult education authority and the Ministry of Education showing the numbers and percentages of illiterates and dropouts from education.

9-providing material and moral incentives for people to be literate while celebrating them on social media and various media.

10-launching a major media campaign on social media and the media to explain to people who want to be literate how to enroll in literacy classes and the benefits they will receive once they obtain literacy certificates.

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