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Adult literacy in China 1982-2015

The statistic shows the degree of adult literacy in China from 1982 to 2015. In 2015, the literacy rate, which is defined as people aged 15 and above who can read and write, had reached about 96.4 percent in China.

Literacy and education in China – additional information

By 2012, 84 percent of the world population aged 15 years and above had been able to read and write. While in developed regions this figure ranged a lot higher, only 60 percent of the African population was literate. Countries with the lowest literacy rates are also the most underdeveloped worldwide. According to UNESCO, literacy is a human right, especially in a fast-changing and technology-driven world. In China, the literacy rate has developed from 79 percent in 1982 to 97 percent in 2010, indicating that almost one million people per year have become literate over the past three decades. In India, the situation was entirely different. The second most populous country in the world displayed a literacy rate of merely 75 percent in 2006.

The dramatic increase in literacy in China has a lot to do with the efficacy of numerous political, economic and educational policies. In 1982, compulsory education was written into the Chinese constitution, postulating a nine-year compulsory education funded by the government. As is shown by the graph above, there was a large gender gap in literacy rate in China as of 1982. Though this gap still existed in 2010, it was narrowed down to 5.7 percent, starting from 28 percent in 1982. Since 1990, the national education policy was directed at females, especially from poor and/or minority families. Over the past years, China has achieved gender parity in primary schooling.

However, regional literacy disparities in China should not to be overlooked. Regions with a strong economic background tend to display illiteracy rates below national average. In contrast, economically underdeveloped regions have a much larger share of people who cannot read nor write. Tibet for instance, a region where 92 percent of the population belong to an ethnic minority, showed the highest illiterate rate nationwide, with almost 35 percent in 2012.

Adult literacy rate in China from 1982 to 2015*

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Release date

April 2017



Survey time period

1982 to 2015

Supplementary notes

* Adults were defined by the source as people aged 15 years and older.
Figures have been rounded to provide a better understanding of the statistic.

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Statistics on "Education in China"

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