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Palestinian illiteracy falls by 84% over past two decades

September 7, 2023 at 11:56 am

UNRWA school on the second day of 2023-2024 education season in Gaza City, Gaza on August 27, 2023 [Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency]

Official data published by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) shows that the illiteracy rate in Palestine has fallen by 84 per cent over the past two decades. The data was published by the bureau earlier today.

There has been a significant decrease in the illiteracy rate since 1997, from 13.9 per cent of Palestinians aged 15 or over in 1997, to just 2.2 per cent in 2022. According to data issued by the Galilee Association, Rikaz, the illiteracy rate among Palestinian individuals aged 15 years and over in the territories occupied since 1948 was 3.6 per cent in 2017.

“Illiteracy rates among Palestinian males (aged 15 years and above) in Palestine dropped during the period 1997-2021 from 7.8 per cent in 1997 to 1.2 per cent in 2021, and among females for the same period from 20.3 per cent to 3.5 per cent,” said the PCBS. “In the West Bank, the rate dropped from 14.1 per cent in 1997 to 2.5 per cent in 2021, while in the besieged Gaza Strip it fell from 13.7 per cent in 1997 to 2.0 per cent in 2021.”

The PCBS pointed out that more than half of those who are illiterate are the elderly. Those aged 65 and over had the highest illiteracy level; the age group 30 to 44 recorded the lowest.

According to official data, about 51,000 illiterate people live in urban communities, while the illiteracy rate in rural communities is 2.9 per cent, equating to around 15,000 people. The figure for the refugee camps is 2.3 per cent, which is around 6,000 people.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) defines an illiterate person as one who is unable to read and write, and understand a short simple statement about everyday life.

READ: Illiteracy rates in Palestine drop to 3.3%

The illiteracy rate among individuals 15 years and over in West Asian and North African countries was 19.5 per cent in 2020, according to data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. The rate was 25.1 per cent among females compared with 14.2 per cent among males.

In the same year, the global illiteracy rate among individuals 15 years and over was 13.3 per cent, with a rate of 16.7 per cent among females, and 9.9 per cent for males. 

The world celebrates International Literacy Day on 8 September every year, as declared at the 14th session of the General Conference of UNESCO on 26 October 1966.