Iran literacy rate

Public literacy in Iran: before and after the Revolution

Literacy Movement Organization is the main and largest literacy organization in Iran with more than 50,000 instructors and 6,000 administrators working all over the country, and its branches are located in more than 300 villages of 28 provinces. LMO has been actively promoting literacy and continuing education and conducting various literacy programs for illiterate children and adults in the country. LMO which was established after the Islamic revolution in 1979, was awarded an honorable mention of the king Sejong literacy prize in 1998 by UNESCO, the Noma literacy prize in 2000, Malcolm Adiseshiah Award in 1999 and three more international awards.


41 years ago, on February 11, 1979, the Islamic Revolution of Iran launched by the people and led by Imam Khomeini overthrew the Pahlavi Regime. The people took control of the country while the country suffered many problems in different areas including education, sanitation, women’s contribution, university education, the situation of the underprivileged etc.
Nevertheless, the Islamic Revolution managed to overcome many of the obstacles in the way of the country’s development and welfare, and achieved prominent advances.

One of the advances represented the improvement of public literacy through the formation of the Literacy Movement Organization on December 28, 1979, as one of the main ideas of the Islamic Revolution.
During the Pahlavi era, education was only provided for a certain group of people, and the Pahlavi government tried to maintain the public at a low social level by keeping them illiterate so that it could dominate the public.
In contrast, in the era of the Islamic Republic education became one of the main policies of the government to the extent that, according to international organizations, in addition to high-level scientific advances in Iran, significant developments occurred in the area of literacy for the general public.
According to the World Bank’s report, in the age group of 15 to 95, only 36 percent of Iranians were literate in 1979 before the Islamic Revolution, while the global average was 69 percent[1]. However, according to the World Bank, in 2016 Iran’s literacy rate reached 86% equal to the global average of 86%. That is to say, Iran's growth rate in this age group after the Revolution has been so fast that it could fill the 33% gap between the pre-revolution era and the global growth rate.

The World Bank report adds that, moreover, in the 15-24 age group, with a literacy rate of 98% in 2016, Iran is about 7% higher than the world average in this age group (91)[2].

The world has witnessed a 20% growth in literacy rate during forty years (1976-2016); whereas, Iran has experienced an approximately 50% growth in literacy rate during the same time period[3].

During the Pahlavi regime, illiteracy among women was more than men; in the same age group(age 15 and above), among the women before the Islamic Revolution, the rate of literacy was 24%, i.e. 23.4% less than men; while the rate of literacy for the women in the world was 56%. In 2016, this number reached 81% in Iran while the global rate is 82%[4].

With the aim of establishing gender justice among in terms of literacy, as well as making sure girls can completely and fairly access basic and quality education, during the years of study, by devoting about 80% of literacy activities to girls and women, especially in rural areas, the index of literacy increased with a higher pace among women. The results from a survey conducted between 1976 and 2016 indicated the gap between women’s and men’s literacy rate decreased from almost 23% in 1976 to nearly 9% in 2016.

The Islamic Republic has not pursued enhancing literacy only for Iranians; in fact, due to the importance of education in Islam and several recommendations made by the Prophet of Islam with this regard, the Islamic Republic has also implemented promotion of literacy for foreign residents in Iran. This program was designed to enhance the literacy index among immigrants in Iran for empowering foreign residents, prioritizing the Afghan immigrants, in order to improve their personal and social life.  Between 1985 and 2011, 681153 foreign residents registered in the Literacy Movement classes and were covered by the literacy promotion plan.

The Literacy Promotion Movement has been able to benefit 102835 illiterate foreigners by providing literacy services since 2012.  Overall, since 1985, 783988 foreign residents of Iran were covered by the literacy programs.

In order to create educational equality and reducing gaps in literacy rate between rural and urban parts of the country, about 55% of literacy activities were devoted to rural regions in the past 40 years, and as a result, the literacy index has improved in underprivileged regions. Based on the surveys conducted between 1977 and 2016, the literacy rate of urban regions increased from 65.5% in 1976 to 90.8% in 2016. During the same time period, the literacy rate of rural regions increased from 30.5% to 78.5%. In other words, enhancing literacy in rural regions happened at a higher pace. Therefore, the gap between rural and urban regions’ literacy rate decreased from 35 in 1976 to 12.3% in 2016.

The number of female university students has increased from 29.8% in 1977 to 45% in 2014[5].

We have also witnessed a 16-time growth in the number of female faculty members of universities compared to the time before the Islamic Revolution. In 1979, female faculty members represented 1.4%, while in 2018, this number reached 24%.

Currently, women constitute 20% of university professors, accounting for seven thousand female faculty members. This is while, before the Revolution, only 1.4% of the university professors were women.

The number of female students in medicine has increased from 31869 in 1990-91 to 161845 in 2015-16; in social sciences from 31617 in 1990-91 to 1058745 in 2015-16; in basic sciences from 15950 in 1990-91 to 175906 in 2015-16; in technical and engineering fields from 3147 in 1990-91 to 308821 in 2015-16; in agriculture and veterinary from 445 in 1990-91 to 101358 in 2015-16; and in arts from 2297 in 1990-91 to 195884 in 2015-16.

In the academic year 2016-2017, from the total of 1871599 female university students, 46316 were studying general practice medicine, and 59220 were studying to become specialists.  









  • Iliteracy
  • Iran
  • Islamic Revolution
  • Literacy growth rate
  • Science