Illiterates, persons unable to read or write, or able to read but not to write. Various methods have been adopted for ascertaining the proportion of illiterates in a country to the whole population with the view of gauging the progress of education.
In some countries an attempt has been made to take a general census; the result given ranged from 22-15 per cent. in the United States to 79'07 per cent. in Portugal. At the general election of 1886, 2-69 per cent. of the whole number of electors in Great Britain were illiterates. In the same year 10-55 per cent. of the persons married in England and Wales were unable to sign their names in the register; the percentage in Scotland was 6-46, in Ireland 2435, whilst among colonies and foreign countries Italy headed the list (1887) with 52-58 and Victoria appeared at the bottom with 1-99.
In some countries, where conscription extends to all classes, the proportion of recruits who can neither read nor write is accepted as equivalent to that of the whole male population. In estimating these various results, it must be remembered that as they are obtained by very different means, the data for forming a comparison are not very satisfactory.