What Is the Literacy Rate in Afghanistan?

Many diverse ethnic groups live in Afghanistan, a South-Central Asian nation that has critical trading passageways.

Renowned authors, including Khaled Hosseini, have a lengthy history in the country’s publications, yet the country remains among the most illiterate globally, specifically its females.

So, what is the literacy rate in Afghanistan?

According to UNESCO, the literacy rate had increased from below 35% in 2017 to almost 45% in 2020.

The figure is even higher for young people between ages 15 and 24, at 65%. That average literacy percentage is, however, marred by the fact that more than half the men can read but less than 30% of women were literate up to 2020.

Both local and international researchers blame the disparity on the Taliban’s dominion and catastrophic conflicts.

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What programs have been implemented to reduce illiteracy in Afghanistan?


Since then, an estimated 1.2 million Afghans’ literacy levels have been raised thanks to assistance from the UIL, an arm of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

With the assistance of the organization’s Kabul office, the Afghan Ministry of Education is now working to improve educational opportunities for children and adults alike.

As a policy and planning resource, UIL also assists with curriculum design and development, teacher preparation, data collection and administration, and quality assurance efforts.

Mohammad Yasin Samim, the country’s Education Ministry’s Senior Technical Advisor, provided an overview of the current state of literacy among Afghan kids and adults.

He also pointed out obstacles, potential solutions, and probable next steps.

Literacy and basic education among Afghanistan’s young and adult population

More than 10 million Afghan children and adults were once lacking basic literacy skills, but Afghanistan has made great strides in this area since 2016.

The UNESCO Institute for Statistics has announced that the literacy rate has risen from 34.8 percent between 2016 and 2017 to 43 percent.

That’s an incredible eight percent rise. The literacy rate for young adults ages 15 to 24 has also improved significantly, and it now stands at 65 percent.

The Education Ministry says although they have made enormous strides, there are still many individuals in the country who are illiterate and lack access to educational opportunities.

Afghanistan literacy

In addition, there is still a significant gender disparity. Men have a literacy rate of 55 percent, while women’s literacy rates are 29.8 percent.

What are the biggest obstacles to achieving universal literacy in Afghanistan?

There is a lack of resources and organizational capacity at all levels, including the central, provincial, and district levels, as well as social and economic factors like parity.

Additionally, there are cultural barriers that prevent older people, particularly women, from obtaining an education because of social norms and cultural norms.

The UNESCO Kabul Office along with UIL inked a partnership agreement in 2018 for a large-scale initiative to strengthen Afghanistan’s education system, termed Better Education Systems for Afghanistan’s Future (BESAF).

What methods are employed to make BESAF happen?

Since 2001, UNESCO has worked closely with the Afghan Ministry of Education. Policy coordination and money management are supported, as well as technical capacities in areas like curriculum and the training of teachers.


Sweden’s three-year BESAF project funds UIL and UNESCO to cooperate with the deputy minister of education to design a national youth and adult basic education plan, conduct a nationwide evaluation poll, and create coursework for youth and adult basic education, as well as improve teacher training.

UIL support of Afghan education

To help the Ministry of Education of Afghanistan with strategic planning, national evaluation, teacher education, and curriculum modules in Afghanistan, UIL gathers and distributes industry-standard research studies and examples from across the world and the region.

As long as the nation needs UIL’s expertise, it will continue to rely on them for advice, input, and the sharing of resources, according to the Education Ministry’s Technical Advisor.

The Ministry says the country benefits greatly from its collaboration with organizations like UNESCO, UIL, and others since it allows them to gain knowledge from regional and worldwide examples and keep abreast of new developments in the industry.

Afghanistan’s 2030 literacy vision

All young people and a significant share of adults across the country will have fair access to literacy as well as fundamental adult education prospects by 2030.

That will allow them to participate fully in society and the economy and help achieve the nation’s long-term development objectives.

participate fully in society

What other programs are underway to propel education growth in Afghanistan?

The Library on a Bicycle program has been making waves in Afghanistan. In 2018, Idress Siyawash had the concept of increasing literacy levels in Afghanistan through the execution of his mobile bicycle library.

Siyawash began the Read Books initiative, or Ketab Lwast, to give books and educational opportunities to Afghan children, particularly those living in rural areas.

Afghanistan’s Jahan University has enrolled Siyawash, a 21-year-old college student. They visit rural Afghanistan every week and bring books for youngsters in need.

To get the attention of the youngsters and pique their interest in learning, they travel the streets of the city on brilliant blue bicycles loaded with baskets with books.

How do females benefit from the bicycle library?

All the children are then taught to speak, write, and read and appreciate the value of education.

To urge parents to enroll their daughters in school, female volunteers visit their neighbors’ homes and speak with them one-on-one.

Parents who want to provide their daughters with a more equal future might look to the female volunteers for inspiration.

visit their neighbors' homes

The driving force behind the bicycle library

Compared to other countries, Afghanistan’s educational attainment levels are much lower.

According to the International Literacy Survey, Afghanistan has had an average reading level of 38 percent, up to 2018 when the program got underway, while the global average was 84 percent.

Rural places have some of the lowest levels of education. Many women in Afghanistan are not allowed to go to school, and in most regions, the percentage of female instructors is less than 10 percent.

Siyawash had a strong desire to improve literacy rates in Afghanistan and to transform Afghani attitudes towards gender equality in education.

“We want to demonstrate that reading is pleasurable and highlight why learning is so vital,” Siyawash said in an interview.

This nation’s stagnation may be alleviated by providing them with books.

Solutions to the literacy problems in Afghanistan

Distance is a major impediment to education in Afghanistan. Some students, particularly those living in rural areas, have to walk long distances to get to school.

Children in Badakhshan province, for example, walk four hours a day to and from the nearest government-supported school to attend class.

Children may learn from the comfort of their own homes, due to Siyawash’s bicycle innovation.

Females in Afghanistan, especially, are afraid of Taliban rule. Siyawash and his crew have been threatened and accosted by Taliban members twice.

Females in Afghanistan

However, they continue to travel and deliver services to children since they believe in a “better future for Afghanistan.”

Afghanistan’s literacy rate has improved as a result of the program’s efforts. The literacy rate in Afghanistan went from 38 percent in 2015 to 43 percent in 2018 in a short period.

Overall, Afghanistan’s educational prospects appear to be improving.

Why does the literacy gap between Afghanistan’s males and females continue to widen?

A stark indication of the marginal status of women in Afghanistan is provided by the widening literacy gap between men and women as a consequence of the increasing Taliban’s destructive policies.

Afghanistan’s educational gaps are more pronounced than those in South Asia as a whole. More men than women in South Asia can read and write.

Literacy rates in Afghanistan are 2–3 times higher among men than women.

According to the UN Children’s Fund, nearly half of Afghan men and just 15 percent of women could read and write before intervention.

UNICEF’s recent study on Afghanistan’s Taliban authorities’ strict limits on women since the fundamentalist movement assumed office in September 1996 highlights the country’s gender imbalance.

The impact of the US invasion on Afghanistan’s literacy rates

US Invasion on Afghanistan

During the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the fraction of Afghan children in schools was severely minimal.

Afghanistan’s educational scene has dramatically changed. School enrollment is increasing, with girls making up the majority.

The most important thing is that they’re still in school. The following facts regarding education in Afghanistan give you an idea of how things are now shaping up in the country.

Facts about Afghanistan’s education

Nearly a quarter of Afghanistan’s children are enrolled in school, with universities and colleges having about 300,000 students enrolled.

The Afghan government also hired 480,000 new teachers from funds provided by the US Agency for International Development.

Children in Afghanistan are extremely unlikely to quit school after they have been accepted into the system based on statistics.

Around 85% of pupils who begin primary school go on to complete their education in that grade.

In addition, over 94% of boys and 90% of girls who begin secondary school completes it.

Urban versus rural literacy in Afghanistan

Rural Literacy

In rural areas, literacy levels tend to be low. However, this is not the situation in urban regions of Afghanistan, where literacy rates are higher than they are in rural areas.

34.7 percent of women in urban regions are literate, according to a new report. As a result, urban-dwelling men’s literacy rates are as high as 68%.

SEA is making a difference. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) initiative Strengthening Education in Afghanistan is aimed at improving the quality and accessibility of Afghan education.

In 2018, nearly 4,500 instructors were trained as a result of SEA’s efforts.

Scholarships were awarded to 710 female students in the same year. As a result, they were able to continue their education and get bachelor’s degrees.

In addition, SEA scholarships enabled 150 women to pursue master’s degrees in India.

Does Afghanistan’s education still benefit from the American intervention?

More than 60 percent of Afghan youngsters were still attending school in makeshift tents in 2007, six years after the United States invaded the country.

Approximately 80% of teachers were found to be incompetent. Five million children had their education resumed, but only 50% of them were in school.

afghan children and teacher

Improvements have been achieved in all of these areas over the past twelve years.

What percentage of Afghans are still not able to access education?

In Afghanistan, there are currently more than 3 million children who are unable to go to school.

60 percent of the 3 million people are women.

More than a third of Afghan girls get married before they become 15 years old, resulting in them having to drop out of school early.

Afghanistan’s school enrollment rate has increased since 2001. Although the number of Afghan children attending school has increased since 2011, there had also been a decrease in enrollment in several sections of the country between 2015 and 2019.

Female enrolment rates in some Afghan areas are as low as 14 percent. Only a third of all instructors are female.

One area may have more female teachers than another. 74 percent of instructors in some provinces are female.

 female teacher

Women make up less than one-fifth of all teachers in several countries.