Literacy Rates

The critical element in literacy is not only the ability to read, but the ability to write statements concerning daily life. It is the ability to write, rather than just read, that equips the individual with the essential qualification for full membership in modern literate society. Most international definitions of functional literacy take the ability to write, rather than to read, as the pivotal threshold.

In terms of general literacy rates Palestinians score in the middle ranges for developing countries. Some comparative figures are shown in figure 5.1.6

Figure 5.1 Adult (15 years or more) literacy rates in percentage

The Palestinian rate can be broken down by gender (figure 5.2).

Figure 5.2 Adult literacy rates by gender

The differentials in the literacy rates between men and women in the current Palestinian population is almost entirely due to the high illiteracy rates among older women, especially those in the rural areas of the West Bank. Although male literacy rates over the past 30 to 40 years have doubled, women's literacy has grown some 8-fold in the same period. Figure 5.3 present literacy rates by gender and age.

When broken down by region (table 5.1), survey figures indicate that literacy rates are lowest among women in the West Bank, the region in wich disparities between men and women in terms of literacy are the greatest.

Table 5.1 Adult literacy rates by region and gender
Can writeCan write
with difficulty
Can't write
Male Gaza72721
Female Gaza69527
Male West Bank77158
Female West Bank571132
Male Arab Jerusalem78913
Female Arab Jerusalem75619

Survey results also indicate that the Christian population have a higher literacy rate than Muslims (78% versus 69% for Muslims) and UNRWA refugees have about the same rate (70%) as non-refugees (69%).

Six years schooling is often considered the threshold for functional literacy. In the case of Palestinians, survey results would suggest that six years schooling may be sufficient for rudimentary literacy, but is not the equivalent of literacy in relation to the ability to write (table 5.2).

Table 5.2 Literacy rates by mean number of years of schooling
Mean school years
Can write10.3
Can write with difficulty5.8
Cannot write1.3

Figure 5.3 Adult (15 years or more) literacy rates by gender and age


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