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Illiteracy in youth and adulthood is the price people and countries pay for past failures of education systems. Despite steady progress, as of 2010 there are a total of 796 million adult illiterates in the world out of 518 million reside in Asia-Pacific region. Of the total illiterate adults two-thirds are women. While gender parity is improving, women and other disadvantaged groups are still being denied their light to literacy. About 72 million children do not have a chance to attend school. 

© UNESCO

In the Asia and Pacific region, there are 518 million adult illiterates accounting for 65.7  per cent of the world's illiterate population. Illiteracy usually attacks the most vulnerable people in society. Illiteracy rates are higher among ethnic and linguistic minorities and people living in remote areas.

Literacy is crucial to the acquisition of essential life skills that enables us to address the challenges we face in life. Ensuring literacy skills for all people will pave the way for every member of the society to participate in a range of learning opportunities throughout life. Creation of literate environments and societies is the foundation for "lifelong learning for all" and a tool for empowering individuals and their communities.

During the last two decades, some countries in the Asia and Pacific region have made significant progress in literacy. Many countries are recognizing the importance of continuing education as an essential extension to literacy to promote human development and lifelong learning. Continuing education is expected to become even more urgent and important as it provides the main vehicle for learning to cope with the rapid changes that are taking place in the new century. Continuing education must be seen as a productive investment resulting in positive returns, not only in terms of economic growth, but also in improvement of quality of life and the overall development of society. Continuing education is of particular importance to out-of-school youth and neo-literate adults.

Responding to the needs in the region, UNESCO supports Member States in the training of personnel, development of curriculum and teaching/learning materials to enhance the provision of education through non formal modes. Since 1990s, UNESCO has promoted community-based learning through the development of Community Learning Centres (CLCs) as effective local institutions outside the formal education sysytems. In villages and urban slum areas , these CLCs are usually established and managed by people from local communities.  


Ichiro Miyazawa

Programme Specialist in Literacy and Lifelong Learning  

Tel: 66 2 3910577 Ext. 314

Email: i.miyazawa[at]unesco.org


Eun-jae Shin

Assistant programme specialist

Tel: 66 2 3910577 Ext. 363 

Email: ej.shin[at]unesco.org


Mary Anne Therese Manuson

Project Officer

Tel: 66 2 391 0577 Ext. 320

Email: m.manuson[at]unesco.org


Intiranee Khanthong (Jah)

Programme Assistant

Tel: 66 2 3910577 Ext. 318 

Email: i.khanthong[at]unesco.org


Nay Lin Aung

Consultant

Email: nl.aung[at]unesco.org


Sowirin Chuanprapun (Kate)

Programme Assistant

Tel: 66 2 391 0577 Ext. 300

Email: s.chuanprapun[at]unesco.org


Khaing Sandar Htun

Education Consultant

Email: k.sandar-htun[at]unesco.org