India still has the largest number of illiterate adults in the world, but has made "rapid advances" in cutting down the numbers of school drop outs, a new UN report on education has said.
The Education For All–Global Monitoring Report, released here today finds that out of the total 759 million illiterate adults in the world, India still has the highest number.
"Over half of the illiterate adults live in just four countries: Bangladesh, China, India and Pakistan," the report said, adding the progress has been "painfully slow" and threatens to obstruct the Millennium Development Goals.
It said about 72 million primary school age children and another 71 million adolescents are not at school, and on current trends, 56 million primary school age children will still be out of school in 2015, it said.
UNESCO's top official Irina Bokova said the world body was apprehensive that the financial crisis would cause governments to scale back funding on education.
"With the world's largest illiterate population, India has been making progress," the report said.
While in 1985–1994 just about half of the adults in the country were literate, now the number has gone up to two-thirds. "Since the adult population increased by 45 per cent, this marks a real advance," it said.
Gender disparities remain deeply engrained, with 28 nations across the developing world having nine or fewer girls in school for every 10 boys.