Blog: Education by the Numbers

Education of girls and youth literacy varies widely in Africa, new educational data on developing nations

Last week on May 23, 2013 the Global Partnership for Education launched an Open Data Project that consolidates education indicators from 29 developing nations, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. The World Bank Development Data Group and the aid data organization Development Gateway are supporting it. The data posted so far is uneven and scanty. For many nations, a lot of data is not available.

But it’s interesting to compare youth literacy rates across countries and the extent to which girls are educated. For example, in Ghana, 95 girls complete primary school for every 100 boys who do. And 81% of the nation’s youth (between the ages of 15 and 24) are deemed literate. In Rwanda, more girls are educated than boys: 110 girls complete primary school for every 100 boys who do. But overall, fewer kids are educated in Rwanda. Only 77 percent of Rwanda’s youth are deemed literate. Unfortunately, there are too many countries where fewer than 40 percent of the youth can read. That includes Afghanistan, Burkina Faso and Niger.

I wish enough data were available so that I could do some mash-ups looking at how youth literacy and the education of girls correlates with economic growth and political stability. Is it really true that the more educated your populace, the more your economy grows? Some developing nations like Albania and Tajikistan claim a 100% youth literacy rate, but I suspect these two nations are growing more slowly than others with lower literacy rates. On the other hand, sometimes conventional wisdom is right. Ethiopia saw huge gains in youth literacy between 2005 and 2007, growing from 45 percent to 55 percent. Indeed, per capita GDP grew from $169 to $253 during this period.

You can access the data here.

This World Bank data blog, GPE launches open data project to better measure education progress…, explains more about the data project.


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