Literacy Rates in Third-World Countries

peterchristopher's picture

There are so many jokes about statistics that it's amazing they still seem so interesting.  I just came across this article claiming progress in reducing illiteracy rates in Nicaragua.

Now, I haven't been in Nicaragua for a few years, but I doubt there has been much change in the overall literacy rate, if it's defined (and the tests administered) in a reasonable and non-partisan way.

But perhaps if there is anyone who has had direct experiences with any person at all in Nicaragua whose literacy has improved over the past two years, I'd be willing to revise my suspicion.  



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I think civil society - including the respect of free speech & assembly, property, transparent and fair democratic/republican governments, punishment of crime, and low-corruption government - tends to occur during times of increase of literacy and physical/emotional well-being of societies.  However, causality is not as simple as one-two-three, and there are as many opinions of the relationship among capitalistic ideals and civil society, as there are hoods in the Ivory Tower.

I wanted to know if anybody

I wanted to know if anybody could comment soundly on the arguments stating that conversion to capitalistic ideals has improved litteracy levels and  reduced poverty.




Yes, you're certainly right - Cuban site.  And also it sounds like you're right on with the varying definitions of literacy.

It reminds me of something I think Gandhi wrote - that the true standard of progress of a country is its morality.  Though some would say that morality is even more open to interpretation than literacy! 

Different definitions of literacy

I read somewhere (possibly the UN site?) that the definition of 'literate' is quite different for developing countries. Basically, to be literate doesn't mean much more than the person can recognize letters and some words and can sign your name. I may be exaggerating slightly but not much. In no way do the literacy figures for Central America (something like 80% for Honduras -- hah!) mean that literate people can read, comprehend, interpret, or summarize a paragraph, much less that they have ever or could ever read a book or a newspaper.

BTW, I'm sure that you know that your link source is Cuban. Additionally, outside of Cuba, which apparently has the best education system in all of Latin America, most of the rest of the ALBA countries have dropped out of the standardized testing of education systems done by UNESCO. I read a detailed study. Honduras was at or near the bottom in every category and dropped out of the follow up tests.

The study clearly showed that while most students could read a sentence, they couldn't put what they read to use or make an logical conclusions about what they read. The same in math. They could work a simple numerical problem, but if they were asked to use their math abilities in even the simplest word problem, they just could not do it.

The education system is broken in Honduras for all but the very wealthy.

Here are some links if anyone is interested:

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