Functional Literacy

Release Date: 

Wednesday, May 30, 2001


Functional literacy improves by 8.4 percentage points

Of the country’s 48.0 million population 10 to 64 years old in 1994, about 40.2 million or 83.8 percent were found to be functionally literate. Comparing this with the 1994 simple literacy rate of 95.0 percent, accounting for 45.6 million 10-64 years old population, this means that 1 out of 9 Filipinos who can read and write (simple literate) cannot compute or actually deficient in numeracy skills (functionally illiterate).

The 1994 functional literacy rate (FLR) was 8.4 percentage points higher than the 75.4 percent FLR recorded in 1989. Refer to Tables B1 and B2.

NCR, Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon continue to pace FLR

In 1994, NCR had a 92.4 percent FLR, a slight 1.8 percentage point improve-ment from the 1989 level of 90.6 percent. Like in simple literacy, NCR was ranked first in functional literacy in both years but its increment was the lowest among regions. This is expected because being the country’s center for education, NCR had already very high literacy rates. In contrast to NCR’s 9 out of 10 persons aged 10 to 64 who are functionally literate, only about 6 in every ten persons in ARMM (61.2 percent) have basic reading, writing and computational skills. The onslaught of lahar in Central Luzon appeared to have caused some destabilizing effects on education in the region. Like in simple literacy, results of the survey showed that Central Luzon was overshadowed by Southern Tagalog in terms of functional literacy. From 2nd spot in 1989 (84.1 percent), Central Luzon gained 3.2 percentage points but still fell to the 3rd position in 1994 (87.3 percent). On the other hand, Southern Tagalog climbed from 2nd to 3rd spot on account of its 8.2 percentage point gain, from 79.8 percent to 88.0 percent. Refer to Table B2. Rounding up the top five regions with the highest FLRs in 1994 were: Cagayan Valley (86.6 percent) and Ilocos (86.4 percent).

Cagayan Valley leads top performing regions in functional literacy

From 8th position (72.0 percent) in 1989, Cagayan Valley’s FLR gained 14.6 percentage points to 86.6 percent (4th nationwide) in 1994 to become the country’s most improved region in terms of FLR. The five other regions which posted double-digit increments were: Eastern Visayas (14.2 percentage points), Bicol (14.0 percentage points), Western Mindanao (13.5 percentage points), Ilocos (11.3 percentage points) and Central Visayas (10.2 percentage points). See Tables B1 and B2. The above findings likewise revealed that, except in CAR where FLR increased by 4.9 points (12th nationwide), from 73.7 percent to 78.6 percent, the government has moved towards curbing functional illiteracy especially in economically depressed regions.

More urban dwellers are functionally literate

Approximately 88.4 percent or 21.4 million out of 24.2 million urban population 10-64 years old can read, write and compute in 1994. This was 9.3 percentage points higher than the 79.1 percent registered in rural areas. Refer to Table B3. The biggest urban-rural disparities in favor of urban areas were observed in Western Mindanao (18.0 percentage points), CAR (12.1 percentage points) and Southern Mindanao (10.2 percentage points). The gaps in the other regions ranged from 4.4 percentage points in Cagayan Valley to 8.2 percentage points in Central Mindanao. Among the regions, only CAR showed a widening urban-rural gap (1.4 percentage points hike) from 1989 to 1994. Central Visayas led the regions with biggest reduction (15.4 percentage points). Refer to Table B3 for more details.

Females dominate males in functional literacy

In 1989, female FLR (76.2 percent) was 1.7 percentage points higher than their male counterparts (74.5 percent). By region, males edged up females only in Central Mindanao, NCR and Central Luzon, by 4.0, 1.6 and 0.6 percentage points, respectively. Female lead over male was biggest in Bicol and Western Visayas (5.1 percentage points each). See Tables B1 and B3.

The 1989 pattern continued and became more conclusive in 1994 as females dominated males by 4.2 percentage points - 85.9 percent for females and 81.7 percent for males. Moreover, this pattern was replicated in the country’s 13 regions (except in Cagayan Valley where the FLR of males and females are both 86.6 percent and in ARMM with 59.1 FLR for females and 63.2 percent for males). Females outproportioned males from 0.1 percentage point margin in Cagayan Valley to as high as 8.5 percentage points in Eastern Visayas.


Source: 1994 Functional Literacy and Mass Media Survey

                National Statistics Office