In Cambodia, the 2008 National Population Census puts the adult literacy rate at 77.6% (15 years old and over) and the functional literacy rate (a person who can read, write and calculate for his/her own or their community’s development) is even more concerning (37.1% when it was last measured in 1999 compared to 67.3% in the 1998 national census).
Cambodia’s literacy challenge also lies in reducing disparities in literacy rates by gender (85.1% among males to 70.9% among females) and age group, between urban and rural populations (90.4% to 74% respectively), and among ethnic minorities, and those who are most marginalized. In Ratanakiri, home to a large number of indigenous people who do not speak Khmer, the adult literacy rate is just 45.9%. More concerning, improvement in literacy rates in Cambodia has been slowing down. Part of the reason lies in the fact that most illiterate people are hard to reach groups such as remote area populations groups, ethnic minorities, migrants, or people with disabilities.
Literacy rate is higher in urban compared to rural areas. There is a high correlation between illiteracy and poverty, and it would appear that the illiterates and those living below the poverty line are from the same group of the population. There is a strong commitment from the Royal Government of Cambodia to improve the literacy rates in the country as this is seen as an important factor in developing the people and the country