Over-all literacv rate in the Muslim world is 49.9 per cent

By Zubeida Mustafa

AT one time the Muslim world was a storehouse of knowledge and education. It produced philosophers, scholars and scientists whose contributions in their own fields gained international recognition. Where do the Muslims stand today in terms of educational advancement?

The collective picture which emerges from the statistics on literacy and school enrolment in individual countries is on the whole not too satisfactory. In some respect it is appalling. A London-based magazine has released the basic data for Third World countries in 1983 from which the following has been compiled.

Out of the 663.8 million people living in the 42 member countries of the OIC (including Afghanistan whose membership has been suspended, and excluding Palestine for which statistics are not available) 49.9 per cent are literate, But this figure does not convey an accurate picture because of great disparity between some countries. For instance, if Indonesia with its 155 million population and 67 per cent literacy rate is not counted, the literacy rate of the Muslim world would drop to 34 per cent

The uneven distribution of literacy is further highlighted by two facts: only 16 of the 42 countries have a literacy rate of 50 per cent or more; 18 countries have a literacy rate of 30 per cent or less.

Of course one cannot fail to note the achievements of some. Maldives’ literacy rate of 82 per cent is the highest in the Muslim world. Next comes Lebanon with 76 per cent and Malaysia with 72 per cent. Other achievers are Kuwait (68 per cent), Indonesia (67 per cent), Turkey (65 per cent) and Brunei (64 per cent).

At the bottom of the literacy ladder are North Yemen and Burkina Faso (Upper Volta) with a rate of nine per cent each and Niger and Mali with a ten per cent rate.

Pakistan with 26 per cent literacy and over 45 million adult illiterates has the highest concentration of illiterates in the Muslim world. It accounts for 19.8 per cent of the total number of illiterates living in OIC member-countries.

Pakistan’s backwardness is further indicated by its position in the OIC in terms of literacy rate. It ranks 28th.

School enrolment ratios are important indicators of a country’s progress in education. They point to future trends in literacy rate. Eleven countries claim 100 per cent school enrolment of children of primary school age. They are Cameroon, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Indonesia, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and the UAE. Pakistan’s primary school enrolment ratio is 50 per cent. At least 30 countries have a higher ratio. As for higher education, Lebanon ranks the highest with 28 per cent enrolment in that age group. Next are Jordan and Syria (22 and 18 per cent). Pakistan is again at the lower end with two percent enrolment in h igher education.

Source: Dawn 27 Sept 1985