Simple Literacy

Release Date: 

Thursday, March 8, 2001


Literacy improves by 4.1 percentage points during the last 5 years

About 93.9 percent (47.3 million out of 50.4 million) or roughly 9 out of 10 Filipinos aged 10 years old and over in 1994 can read and write and understand a simple message in any language or dialect (simple literate). Simple literacy improved by 4.1 percentage points from 89.8 percent in 1989, or an average increase of 0.8 percentage point per year. In other words, approximately 1 additional Filipino in every 100 became literate yearly from 1989 to 1994. Refer also to Tables A1 and A3.

Southern Tagalog outpaces Central Luzon, NCR clings to top

In 1994, the National Capital Region (NCR) posted the highest proportion of literates among the country’s 15 regions. From 98.1 percent in 1989, simple literacy rate (SLR) slowly inched up by 0.7 percentage point to 98.8 percent in 1994. On the other hand, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) had the lowest rate of 73.5 percent, or roughly 20.4 percentage points below the national literacy level.

Southern Tagalog displaced Central Luzon in the 2nd in 1989 position after gaining 3.2 percentage points, from 93.2 percent to 96.4 percent in 1994. Central Luzon slipped to 3rd with a slower 2.6 percentage point increase (from 93.7 percent to 96.3 percent). See Table A3. Among the 7 regions in Luzon, only the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) failed to land in the top 7 regions in 1994. CAR’s 88.8 percent in 1994 was good only for the 12th position nationwide - one rank lower than its 1989 position (86.4 percent). n In contrast, Bicol Region showed a very impressive performance by jumping from the 10th position in 1989 (87.3 percent) to 5th place in 1994 (94.9 percent). The 7.6 percentage points gained by Bicol during the last five years propelled it to the second most improved region in terms of SLR.

Moreover, except for Northern Mindanao which had a 94.6 percent SLR in 1994, all the other regions in Visayas and Mindanao failed to surpass the 93.9 percent national average.

Economically depressed regions lead gainers in simple literacy

Previous studies have revealed that a symbiotic relationship exists between education and economic growth; the progress of one makes possible the development of the other. Based on the 1989 FLEMMS results, the five regions with the lowest literacy rates were: Central Mindanao (78.3 percent), Western Mindanao (80.4 percent), Eastern Visayas (81.7 percent), CAR (86.4 percent) and Bicol Region (87.3 percent). Incidentally, these are also among the country’s economically depressed regions. However, the 1994 results showed that, except for CAR, these regions posted very impressive results in eradicating illiteracy. Occupying the top four slots of the most improved regions in terms of lowering illiteracy were: Eastern Visayas (9.2 percentage point increment), Bicol (7.6 percentage points), Central Mindanao (6.8 percentage points) and Western Mindanao (5.6 percentage points). The 5th slot went to Central Visayas (5.1 percentage points) while CAR ranked 12th only nationwide. Refer to Table A3. Based on the above findings, it can be said that, in general, the government has been successful in reducing illiteracy in economically depressed, disadvantaged and underserved areas, or the so-called priority areas. The survey likewise revealed that the government needs to put more efforts in bringing education to other priority areas such as CAR.

Urban-rural differentials shrinks

In 1989, the urban-rural disparity at the national level was marked at 9.2 percentage points - 95.4 percent and 86.2 percent in urban and rural areas, respectively. This differential narrowed to 5.3 percentage points in 1994 (96.5 percent in urban as against 91.2 percent in rural areas). See Tables A2and A4. In 1994, Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog each had 2.0 percentage points urban-rural margin, the smallest among the regions. The biggest gap was observed in Western Mindanao (10.5 percentage points), followed by CAR (10.3 percentage points). Except for CAR where disparity in urban-rural literacy widened by 2.6 percentage points and Central Luzon which remained constant, all the other regions exhibited decreasing gaps. The three regions with the biggest reductions from 1989 to 1994 were: Bicol (6.6 percentage points), Eastern Visayas (6.6 percentage points) and Central Visayas (4.8 percentage points). See Table A4. This decreasing pattern indicates that some improvements were made in educating Filipinos in the countryside. Furthermore, it must be noted that the big increment in rural literacy was also the bigger source of the increase in the national literacy rate in 1994.

Simple literacy gap by sex closes in

Table A1 further shows that the overall increase in the 1994 literacy is reflected in both sexes but female literacy (94.0 percent) is slightly higher than for males (93.7 percent) by a margin of 0.3 percentage point. By region, literate females were most dominant in Eastern Visayas (3.5 percentage point margin), Western Visayas (2.2 percentage points) and Northern Mindanao (1.7 percentage points). On the other hand, males clearly edged up females in CAR (2.4 percentage points) and Ilocos (1.3 percentage points). The sex differentials in the rest of the regions deviated within the ± 1 range. See Table A4.


Source: 1994 Functional Literacy and Mass Media Survey

                National Statistics Office