September 8 is International World Literacy Day and Bosnian media have taken to discussing illiteracy issues in the country. At 2.8%, the country’s illiteracy rate stands among the highest in the region. While many other countries in the world have a much higher rate, these numbers are still troubling to the small European country and educators are taking it seriously.
Numbers from Bosnia’s latest census, conducted in 2013, are just coming to full light in 2017 and the country is not happy with some of them. While Greece, surprisingly, still tops the region’s illiteracy list with an adult literacy rate hovering at around 95%, most other countries in the region have a steadily dropping 98-99% literacy rate.
Aida Kršo, a linguistics expert from the Institute of Language in Sarajevo, spoke to popular Bosnian news site klix.ba and explained that, while the definition of literacy has changed and developed over recent decades, the new numbers are disappointing.
“In contemporary life, literacy incorporates much more than just the elementary literacy of being able to write and read something. It incorporates several levels – spelling, grammar, and stylistic literacy, which assume a higher level of linguistic culture. The number of 2.8% of illiterate adults in Bosnia-Herzegovina is devastating, because it reflects the general attitude of the population toward linguistic culture and culture in general,” Kršo explains.
While Bosnia-Herzegovina includes population as young as 10 years of age in calculating these rates – which is unusual as most other countries’ official illiteracy rates include only adults, i.e. individuals over the age of 14 – what’s most interesting about these new numbers is that the vast majority of those who are illiterate in Bosnia are women. The gender gap is unequivocal, with over 77,000 of Bosnia’s almost 90,000 illiterate individuals being female.
The new data also shows that more than 38% of the country’s population isn’t computer literate. With an internet penetration rate of over 61% and a government digitization process in full swing, the country considers computer literacy – which includes basic knowledge of accessing the internet, use of email and word processing on a computer – an important element in overall functional literacy.