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Nine Million Iranians Are Illiterate

Out of a population of 71.5 million new figures estimate that roughly 9.45 million Iranians are illiterate. This research was compiled by the Literacy Movement Organization (LMO) created after the 1979 Islamic revolution to increase literacy throughout the country, especially in underserved rural areas.

Though the number seems high, it shows some progress. As recently as the 1950s, only around 15 percent of Iran's then largely agrarian population was literate. Government campaigns like the LMO and mass migration to the cities meant literacy soared in the next decades. Tehran currently has the highest literacy level.

The organization acknowledges work is still necessary to raise literacy rates. The answer may lie in the country's women — 85 percent of their targeted population is women, and they're taking to the book learnin'. The head of the organization says that women are more motivated to learn reading and writing.

Is Iran making gains in this area? According to education stats in The Economist Pocket World in Figures I was surprised to see the country that spends the biggest percentage of money on education is Cuba. The United States didn't crack the top 20, though they do rank fifth in percentage of eligible students enrolled in higher education. Can we judge a country on the education of its citizens?


austerity austerity 9 years
thanks ;)
stephley stephley 9 years
Wow, nice Gandhi usage Austerity!
austerity austerity 9 years
'Can we judge a country on the education of its citizens' Education, yes. But literacy, I am not sure as the two things are not the same. I quote Mahatma Gandhi that 'Literacy does not mean education'. Literacy helps in gaining knowledge and skills, but in the end, it's about those knowledge and skills. I think Iranian culture scores very highly on that point. Till now, every Iranian person I've met has been renarkably hospitable, cultured, knowledgeable, civilized, articulate and politically aware. Such values seep through more channels than just being able to read. I think bahar's mom's example illustrates this point. (And no, I'm not Iranian or even Muslim; it's an objective observation I've made about Iranians in general).
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
It's not necessarily something to be proud of, but it makes a heck of a nice goal. Now if we can get the teacher's unions out of the way so we can start doing better
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
I'm not sure what Irans regional mack up is but I'm presuming it is mostly rural. At least they have identified that this is an issue that can not be ignored and I applaud them for making women an equal beneficiary of their new education movement. I'm too tired to start in on the U.S. over education but I'll sum it up. We can do a hell of a lot better and we don't. That is nothing to be proud of.
Auntie-Coosa Auntie-Coosa 9 years
Why is anyone surprised? We have illiterate Undocumented Illegal Aliens living in the USofA -- approximately 15 to 20 Million of them not only can't read English, they can't read Spanish because it's not their Native tongue. And they can't read stop signs or no drinking while driving signs. At least the USofA learned about dyslexia and help students who are afflicted with it. There was a time when a dyslexic child just dropped out of school. Now, it's the inner city kids and kids living in poverty and ghetto-gang areas who drop out. When a parent is involved in a child's education, the child (and the parent) benefit. The trick is to get the parents interested in education instead of assuming schools are built to baby-sit their kids so that they can go do whatever.
stephley stephley 9 years
Illiteracy is scary but Bahar's mother does raise an interesting point - many people who can't read are extremely intelligent, articulate and well-versed in languages; they remember what the rest of us might write down. Not that I'm against literacy programs, just that we shouldn't equate illiterate with uneducated or stupid. Cine, whether the federal government ever should have become involved in public schools is a moot point, unless you want to take apart the entire education system in this country and have each state rebuild its own. Even if the will and the money were available to do that, who'd want to risk their child's education to that kind of renovation?
Orwell Orwell 9 years
"The United States didn't crack the top 20" Surprise surprise!
stiletta stiletta 9 years
When it is not in a society's interest to educate itself, no one will learn to read. I am worried that our country is slipping in that area too. I read that Asian students are now sending their children to South Korean colleges instead of Harvard and Yale because they are attracting the best professors. I wish I can remember where I read that. See, even I'm getting dumber!
harmonyfrance harmonyfrance 9 years
Illiteracy is scary. It leads to ignorance and IMO a less fulfilling life. I think it's easier to fall into certain trappings if someone is illiterate.
cine_lover cine_lover 9 years
Is it just our Federal Government does not spend as much money on education? Does it take into account private funds, and state funds or just Federal Funds, because that makes a HUGE difference on the total amount spent of education in America. And for the thousandth time, the federal government is not suppose to be involved in Public Schools.
CitizenSugar CitizenSugar 9 years
Thanks for sharing that bahar! You give a really interesting perspective on the story.
melda melda 9 years
I don't talk about all illiterate people in Iran, but north east of Iran that have some migrants from soviet, but yes my country is a 3rd world country and I don't compare my city with yours. Of course we have even more illiterates than that in other parts of country
melda melda 9 years
Yes my mom is illiterate too, if illiterate means not knowing how to write and read in Persian. But she understands English, Persian, Turkish and can speak English somewhat, even though none of them is her first language. Most of women my mom's age around 60 are illiterate, but all my siblings are very well educated and my sisters who are more than 40 are university professors. Illiterate because we are not originally from Iran so we have different language than Persian, but we have to study Persian in schools. If we could study our mother tongue or even turkish, then my mom wouldn't be considered illiterate!
zeze zeze 9 years
I think the movement of young Iranians pressing for more liberty in Iran is a result of the literacy improvements. I'm not usually an optimist, but the one think I truly believe in is education, I think literacy and global awareness, no matter how tainted or how regulated will almost always lead to a more free society and more human rights.
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