Youth literacy rate

Definition

Percentage of people aged 15 to 24 years who can both read and write with understanding a short simple statement on their everyday life. Generally, ‘literacy’ also encompasses ‘numeracy’, the ability to make simple arithmetic calculations.

Calculation method

Divide the number of people aged 15 to 24 years who are literate by the total population in the same age group and multiply the result by 100.

Data required

Population and number of literates (or illiterates) aged 15 to 24 years old.

Data source

National population census; household and/or labour force surveys.

Interpretation

A high literacy rate among the 15 to 24 years old suggests a high level of participation and retention in primary education, and its effectiveness in imparting the basic skills of reading and writing. Because persons belonging to this age group are entering adult life, monitoring their literacy levels is important with respect to national human resources policies, as well as for tracking and forecasting progress in adult literacy.

Limitations

Some countries apply definitions and criteria for literacy which are different from the international standards defined above, or equate persons with no schooling to illiterates, or change definitions between censuses. Practices for identifying literates and illiterates during actual census enumeration may also vary. Errors in literacy self-declaration can affect the reliability of the statistics.

Purpose

The youth literacy rate reflects the outcomes of the primary education system over the previous 10 years, and is often seen as a proxy measure of social progress and economic achievement.

Quality standards

The rate cannot exceed 100%. It is useful to align measurements of literacy with the standard international definition given above and to administer literacy tests on a sample basis to verify and improve the quality of the statistics.

Types of disaggregation

By sex.