Survey: Illiteracy in Brazil down, access to education uneven

RIO DE JANEIRO. KAZINFORM Brazil’s illiteracy sank from 6.1 percent in 2019 to 5.6 percent in 2022. The 0.5 percentage-point shrinkage accounts for 9.6 million people aged 15 and older, as per the PNAD Contínua («Continuous National Household Sample Survey») released by statistics bureau IBGE.

The research reports a decline in illiteracy from 2016, when gauging began. Back then, 6.7 percent of Brazilians could not read and write. The new level reveals a reduction across all age groups. However, among the elderly, the proportion of illiterate people is more conspicuous. Of those aged 60 and older, 16 percent could not read and write in 2022, Agencia Brasil reports.


Even though rates have dropped in all regions of the country, inequalities are still evident. The Northeast is home to 55.3 percent of all nationals aged 15 or more who cannot read and write. Illiteracy there reaches 11.7 percent of the people. In the North, the proportion stands at 6.4 percent. The other regions—the Central-West (4%), the South (3%), and the Southeast (2.9%)—are below the national average.

The study casts light on the challenges facing the country as a whole as well as each region, taking into account goals in the National Education Plan, or PNE. Under its stipulations, the rate among people aged 15 and older should have come down to 6.5 percent in 2015—which was not achieved until 2017. Also worthy of note is that the eradication of illiteracy is targeted for 2024.

Significant discrepancies also stand out if we take skin color and race into account. Among whites, the rate for 15-year-olds and older is 3.3 percent and jumps to 9.5 percent considering age 60 and older. Of black and brown people, 8.2 percent of people aged 15 and more cannot read and write, a percentage that climbs up to 27.2 percent among elders.

Access to education

The survey also provides an overview of inequalities in access to education. In Brazil, the proportion of people aged 25 and older who have finished high school displayed a steady growth trajectory and reached 53.2 percent last year. The percentage of the population with complete higher education leaped from 17.5 percent in 2019 to 19.2 percent in 2022. However, once again we notice different realities when considering skin color and race: while 60.7 percent of whites aged at least 25 years had finished high school, among black and brown people the level sat at 47 percent.

«There is a 13.7 percentage-point gap between the two groups scrutinized. From 2016 to 2022, this difference slipped—it was 16.6 percentage points in 2016—but remained elevated, indicating that educational opportunities were different for these groups,» the IBGE reported. The survey also shows that black and brown people aged 25 and more study on average 1.7 years less than white people. Numbers linked to higher education reiterate the asymmetries. In the age group between 18 and 24, 29.2 percent of the white population were attending universities last year. Among black and brown people, this rate was 15.3 percent.

The survey also shows a small drop in the percentage of four to five-year-old kids attending school: from 92.7 percent in 2019 to 91.5 percent in 2022. For 6–14-year-olds, a slight increase was reported, and the rate reached 99.4 percent. Universal education in this age group had been virtually achieved in 2016, when 99.2 percent of children were going to school.