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Illiteracy as a Global Issue Research Paper


Illiteracy is defined as the inability to read and write, and it is a common phenomenon in all countries across the world. There is no society that has 100% literate members, which is quite worrying because it implies that all educational systems across the world are yet to achieve the ultimate level of efficiency in facilitating reading and writing skills (Whitfield, 2016). Illiteracy is a major problem because it hinders development in nations. In a world where communication is a primary requirement for economic development, having illiterate citizens in a nation implies that they are not actively involved in the national labor force. This is because employment and innovation are functions of literacy.


The lack of sufficient education is caused by the lack of infrastructure at the national level to facilitate education to every member of society. This is the main reason that the highest levels of illiteracy are seen in developing nations. In such nations, large numbers of citizens cannot access schools. Additionally, the cost of education in such countries is relatively high, which implies that only financially stable citizens have access to quality education. The cost and access to opportunities to gain an education is also a major cause of illiteracy in the developed economies, where members of the lower class are subjected to high costs of living; thus, they cannot afford education.

Illiteracy is also a function of having uneducated parents in societies where it is relatively easy to access education. Parents with insufficient education are not likely to emphasize the need for their children to get an education. On the contrary, they are likely to advocate for their children to stay at home and engage in activities that enhance their survival without engaging in the search for formal jobs (Pavlova, 2014). The reverse is seen to be true in contemporary society, whereby highly literate parents are likely to put emphasis on their children to pursue higher levels of education.

Illiteracy is also caused by the presence of a high level of unemployment in a nation, especially with reference to the educated (Ziesemer, 2016). If the majority of the educated are not getting job placement, members of the society are likely to refrain from getting any formal education. This is because the opportunity cost of attaining formal education outweighs the benefits of education. Society would be inclined toward finding other ways of earning a living, and they would not spend money on tuition fees and other costs associated with formal education.

Social restrictions are also major contributors to illiteracy in society. People with different cultural backgrounds are likely to observe traditions that might affect the ability of the members of society to attain an education. For instance, in some communities, educating females is prohibited because they are not allowed to have formal jobs. Girls’ education has been one of the controversial issues across developing nations (Hanley, 2015). Women have struggled across the world for centuries to gain the right to attain education and compete with their male counterparts in formal employment areas (Younis, 2013). However, while women in the developed nations have triumphed in the quest for literacy, women in other parts of the world, including Africa and Arab nations are still struggling to eliminate illiteracy because of the patriarchal nature of the societies, and the emphasis on women staying at home.

Illiteracy influences slow economic growth and challenges in social development. Formal jobs are associated with propelling the growth of an economy, and they are required for people to identify and create opportunities that generate more revenue for the nation. Formal education is also associated with the development of professionalism in various economic activities, including the activities adopted by illiterate individuals (Philip, 2017). Most illiterate people engage in manual labor in their farms and in the industrial sector, where they learn through apprenticeship. However, with a good formal educational background, their creativity increases and they are able to harness opportunities that facilitated financial liberation, while actively taking part in the increment of the national gross domestic product (GDP). Countries with high levels of illiteracy have low GDP, which translates to slow economic growth.


Illiteracy is a global issue because every country has some illiterate members. Illiteracy is the primary cause of a difficult lifestyle because it is tied to the ability of individuals to engage in formal jobs and innovative activities such as business ventures that liberate them financially. The various causes of illiteracy must be eliminated to ensure that every individual in the society has a chance to attain self-actualization. Formal education is not the only avenue through which individuals can enhance their economic wellness, but it plays a major role in facilitating financial and social growth. For instance, an illiterate person is likely to spend their money on irrelevant activities. Similarly, illiterate individuals might have difficulties relating to other people because their perceptions in life could be based on elementary reasoning. Moreover, illiteracy implies that there would be major communication barriers between individuals and their literate counterparts. Illiteracy is, indeed, one of the issues that must be addressed through efforts pioneered by governmental agencies. Everyone should have access to formal education.


Hanley, D. C. (2015). ADC holds forum on women’s empowerment. Washington Report On Middle East Affairs, 34(4), 48-49.

Pavlova, L. (2014). “Down with illiteracy” society and its role in the eradication of illiteracy in the Orenburg region in the 1920-1930-S. Society: Philosophy, History, Culture, (1), 1-6.

Philip, N. (2017, May 12). Join me, fellow King Canutes, in pushing against the tide of illiteracy. United, we can make a difference. Daily Mail, p. 16.

Whitfield, J. (2016). Thresholds of illiteracy: Theory, Latin America, and the crisis of resistance. Modern Language Review, 111(3), 893-895.

Younis, A. (2013). Gender justice. Harvard International Review, 35(1), 50-55.

Ziesemer, T. (2016). The impact of development aid on education and health: Survey and new evidence for low-income countries from dynamic models. Journal of International Development, 28(8), 1358-1380.

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IvyPanda. "Illiteracy as a Global Issue." October 9, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/illiteracy-as-a-global-issue/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Illiteracy as a Global Issue." October 9, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/illiteracy-as-a-global-issue/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Illiteracy as a Global Issue'. 9 October.

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