mobile menu mobile search

South Africans among the most illiterate in the world

South Africans among the most illiterate in the world

A new study by the Central Connecticut State University shows that South Africa is ranked as one of the most illiterate countries in the world.

The university’s report doesn’t analyse a country’s ability to read, but rather the “literate behaviour” of the populace in 61 countries, including South Africa.

The rankings are based on five categories standing as indicators of the literate health of nations: libraries, newspapers, education inputs and outputs, and computer availability.

South Africa was ranked 56th overall, with a poor showing in computers (56th), Newspapers (59th) and libraries (50th) – while education inputs and outputs were middling at 37th and 38th, respectively.

Notably, the study found that western nations were not as well equipped for literacy as the east, with nations from Europe and Asia placing higher overall.

The world’s top-ranked countries are all from the Scandinavian region, led by Finland, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland. The USA is the first and only western nation in the top 10, ranked 7th overall, followed by Canada (11th) and Mexico far down the list at 38th.

The lowest-ranked countries are all largely developing nations from Africa and central Asia – with Botswana ranked lowest at 61st, below Indonesia, Thailand and Morocco.

The top and bottom 10 countries

# Country
1 Finland
2 Norway
3 Iceland
4 Denmark
5 Sweden
6 Switzerland
7 United States
8 Germany
9 Latvia
10 Netherlands
52 Tunisia
53 Malaysia
54 Albania
55 Panama
56 South Africa
57 Colombia
58 Morocco
59 Thailand
60 Indonesia
61 Botswana

The categories are defined as:

  • Newspapers: paid-for dailies, circulation, online editions and newspaper exports
  • Libraries: The number of academic, public and school libraries, and the number of volumes publicly accessible
  • Education inputs: Years of schooling and public expenditure on education
  • Education outputs: Reading assessment scores for younger and older students
  • Computers: Percentage of households with either desktop or laptop computer

The group notes that the study was not a controlled experiment, but rather an assessment of larger trends across the nations analysed.

More on education

Private education group rakes in billions

SA education a ‘national catastrophe’: report

New education system on the cards for SA: report

News anchor suspended for mocking education minister on air

BusinessTech's Staff Writer is directly plugged into the South African Internet backbone, and spits out press releases and other news as they receive it. They are believed to be cl...
Join the Conversation
  • Broscientist no 2

    Who needs literacy when you can be a goat herder?

    • afm

      That’s too much work. Rather just blame apartheid and destroy everything.

      • Broscientist no 2

        That requires some knowledge of history bro, your standards are too high…. 🙂

        • Blapartheid Zulu

          Stealing and robbing is much easier , no formal education needed

  • Gary Fields

    Why do you need to learn to read and write when throwing stones, burning, looting, theft, mayhem and corruption are the only skills you need to get anything in the New South Africa?

    ..oh and add to that list: treat your fellow man like dirt.

    • Blapartheid Zulu

      That’s the way to roll in South Africa.

    • Silver King

      Seems most of the population is going back to their tribal roots. Thanks ANC for failing South Africa….

  • Amy Zondo

    We are trying to change this one person at a time.
    The Boston GED® is your second chance to achieve a Matric. Equivalent to the Grade 12 Secondary School Leaving Certificate, the Boston GED® can assist you with entry to further your studies at a college or university, or to get a job. To receive more information about the Boston GED®, please click on the link and fill in your details. We will then contact you with more information.

    • Mugabeisikulufa iAfrikanotso G

      Unfortunately, that’s a plaster for an amputated leg.
      We need a complete system overhaul, every fake teacher fired, and the word excellence introduced into our curriculum. If we can get that right by tomorrow, then in 20 years we can be in the top 20.
      Our biggest hurdle is that the anc doesn’t like nor want “clever blacks”.

    • Joseph

      oh dear lucifer.
      boston ged® needs to spam forums to get students!
      boston ged® allows students to study for free?
      how about boston ged® pays for marketing in stead of spamming forums?

  • RainbowMan

    With that announcement they’ll burn down another school or university – dumb barbaric savages.

  • Real Ist

    Thanks terrorists

  • the-TRUTH

    It’s a BIG SHAME that South Africans are still among the most illiterate in the world, 22 years under the rule and leadership of ANC. The ANC should be ashamed for failing the majority ‘zombie’ voters who keep voting them back into power and yet the ANC keep floundering to epic proportions, sies…

    • hernandayoleary2

      The anc has short coming, but the apartheid government is to blame, they, they undereducated people for hundreds of years, what did you expect when the proletariat took over? If apartheid government at least educated people properly, Zuma would never have been elected in the first place.

      It will be hard to get out of this hole we are in.

      • Joseph

        how many universities has anc built in 20 years?
        how many operational universities did they get after 94?
        how many universities did they try to burn down?

        impossible to get out of this hole while SA in under anc rule.

        • Chris Beland

          How many teacher training colleges were closed after 94 ?

        • hernandayoleary2

          Where the people in charge, educated under apartheid and elected by an electorate educated by apartheid? If the answer is yes, the current party is a result of apartheid. If there was no apartheid, or if they educated people better, in the majority population, instead of bantu education and forcing them to be non-political, you’d have a more competent national government and more aware electorate. Instead they tried to keep the people dumb so now, you get a poor government who learned corruption from its predecessor.

      • Simon

        Yes. Yes, the apartheid government ‘undereducated’ people for ‘hundreds of years’. That totally happened.

        New maths literacy: 1994-1948 = ‘hundreds of years’.

        Also, +1 marxism points for the pretty random use of ‘proletariat’.

        Yay, undereducation!

        • hernandayoleary2

          Your view is apartheid started in 1948, mine view it has been going on since the whites showed up in 1600s and started dividing on race and driving the schools into the ground.

          • Silver King

            What schools? There were no schools at that time. Not even a written language (notice most African languages are written in western letters). There wasn’t even the most basic invention known as the wheel at that time. So now these whites destroyed that did not even exist. Damn they were good.

          • hernandayoleary2

            You are mistaken, there indeed were schools, and the writing on south african ostrich eggs, is the oldest form of writing on the planet. Most African languages are not written in western letters, although a shift has taken place since colonialism because the letters for a long time were not available in trade or commerce and banned by Europeans in many cases. In other cases forced colonial education forced English letters so the teachers realized it was easier to teach the language in western letters.

          • Silver King

            Umm yea ok.

          • Simon

            Yeah. The ‘whites’ arriving in 1600 drove the schools into the ground. That also totally happened. Come on, if you want to further the debate, at least tend towards having a reasonable command of the facts.

      • jandr0

        I am no fan of either the apartheid or ANC governments, but many thanks to Simon who INTELLIGENTLY and LOGICALLY pointed out that your comment demonstrates complete intellectual failure.

        [It will be hard to get out of this hole we are in.]

        With inferior “analyses” like yours, it will probably be impossible.

        • hernandayoleary2

          How so, when did the white government start separating upon race?

          • Silver King

            When will the new goverment stop separating upon race?

      • Silver King

        Hundreds of years? From 1948?

        • hernandayoleary2


          • Silver King

            The apartheid government only came into power in 1948 after the British gave back control. The British won control of SA in a war and they won that war thanks to inhumane tactics. O and another thing black also conquered and waged war on weaker tribes before whites came. They sold out their own people to the whites in the slave trade, hell they still do!!!! GREED is the reason of the situation we are in and not the apartheid government. Zupta firing Nene has nothing to do with apartheid or the West that the ANC so loves to blame. Now the ANC is at odds with its own minister who wants to the expose corruption. That says it all!!!

          • hernandayoleary2

            That is your view, apartheid in my view starts with white arrival because that is when they attack, enslave, genocide and start separating off race.

          • Silver King

            Sorry to burst your bubble, but Africans did that too long before these whites you speak of came. Tribal wars and slavery was common place then. Just because Africa’s history pre-colonial is badly recorded in caves and on eggs does not mean it was love and peace all the way. Read up on Shaka Zulu and see cruel acts is not as unique to whites as you so love to claim.

          • hernandayoleary2

            how would white people know what shaka did if there was no writing? There was no genocide and slavery until whites came, not in south africa.

          • Silver King

            Well thank you for proofing without a doubt you do not know
            the History of our Nation. Shaka was born in 1787. Just sad how many people “THINK” they know everything and yet are too lazy to open a second page and do some fact checks first.

  • Literally Mario

    i find this artucal veri ovensif. i reed good.

  • EternityZA

    Not surprised. The current government don’t understand the value of education. They think that if they throw enough money at the system, they are doing a good job.

  • Mach III

    United States 7th, yet there is great support for Drumpf … What a joke!

  • #TimeForChange

    Get rid of UNIONS running schools !

  • S’nyakanyak

    It’s these uneducated bastards that vote for the ANC and now we sit with a uneducated bastard as president.

    • Benjamin Franklin

      My question is

      • Benjamin Franklin

        My question is:- why do the masses keep on blaming the apartheid government for not educating them?

        I admire the Jews who have been treated with far more cruelty than any other racial group. They’ve been denied education in many countries; and yet they are the most literate and successful people in the world.
        The reason? They don’t wait for others to do it for them. They help themselves.

        Why don’t we? If we keep waiting for the so-called white man to educate us we’ll wait forever.

        P.S. I’m not white – just saying.

  • John Deer

    You must remind yourself that South Africa has returned to the Stone Age and with Blade Nzimande and Naledi Pandor in charge of Education, you can surely not expect a improvement, only the opposite.!

  • chris

    And then we wonder why democracy is not working …….duh !

    • Rupert Belmont

      African style democracy isn’t.

      White, Anglo-Saxon and protestant IS working as witnessed in Canada, US, Northern and Central Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Scandinavia.

  • DidierK

    Both the title of this article and the study itself are quite misleading. There is only one criteria out of the 5 in the study that is a real measure of the level of litteracy (the education outputs). The others are really just related to the wealth of the countries and their respective literacy linked expenditure.

    • Rupert Belmont

      And it’s obviously the fault of Van Riebeeck that SA is not wealthy.

      DidierK you are dim-witted schlong. Look at the table! Latvia is not wealthy, free and democratic about as long as SA but look at it’s position, 9th.

      You spot the difference between population of Latvia and SA.

  • kuli

    really and bus-tech published this non-sense?

    • Rupert Belmont

      I think they were too kind to South Africa. Normally SA would come dead last.

  • Silver King

    In a nation where the leader believes taking a shower will cure you of aids. Did you expect more?

  • Rupert Belmont

    EFF-Student Command burned the North-West University.

    “If you burn ALL the books, NOBODY needs to know how to read.”

  • Blapartheid Zulu

    They want to be poor so you can feel sorry for them and supply them with everything for free?

  • Zombie

    1-10 are ALL WESTERN COUNTRIES! Dumbass!!

  • AfricanAfrikaner

    Our president has set the precedent in this case.

Join our newest FREE BusinessTech newsletter today!