FALSE: PH most literate Asian country under Marcos, literacy rate dropped after his ouster


The Philippines was the most literate country in Asia under the regime of Ferdinand Marcos and its literacy rate dropped after he was ousted as a result of the 1986 People Power Revolution.

Facebook page BBM Youth Advocate ツ posted a graphic containing this claim. It was posted on May 27, but it was still being shared at least until June. In October, a reader sent the post to the Facebook group Fact-checking in the Philippines for verification.

As of writing, the post had 804 reactions, 277 shares, and 90 comments.

Rating: FALSE
The facts:

Data show that the Philippines was not the most literate country in Asia, at least from 1980 to 1986. The country’s literacy rate also went up post-Marcos.

The oldest literacy rate data from the World Bank education statistics database, which was sourced from the Unesco Institute for Statistics, was for the year 1980. During this time, Marcos was already serving his 15th year in office.

Compared to selected countries in Asia, data show that the Philippines did not have the highest adult literacy rate (ages 15 and up), youth literacy rate (ages 15-24), and literacy rate for the population aged 25 to 64 when Marcos was in office.

Among adults in 1980, the Philippines’ literacy rate of 83.3% trailed behind Thailand’s 88% and Vietnam’s 83.8%. The Philippines’ 81.5% literacy rate among the population aged 25 to 64 was also behind Thailand’s 87.2%. In terms of youth literacy rate, the Philippines’ 91.8% was lower than Thailand’s 96.9%, Singapore’s 96.3%, and Vietnam’s 95%.

In a Supreme Court resolution dated 1973, former Chief Justice Felix V. Makasiar also said that the Philippines is only the second most literate country after Japan, at least in Asia. “The Philippines is a literate country, second only to Japan in the Far East, and more literate perhaps than many of mid-western and southern states of the American Union and Spain,” he wrote.

The World Bank and Unesco do not have data on literacy rates for Japan.

It is also not true that the country’s literacy rate dropped after Marcos was ousted in the 1986 People Power Revolution. The same set of data from the World Bank database shows that the adult literacy rate in the Philippines went up to 93.6% by 1990. As of 2015, the country’s literacy rate is 98.2%, the highest since 1980.

In September 2019, Rappler debunked a related claim that said the Philippines was the richest country in Asia during the Marcos years. This is false because economic indicators showed that the country was not even the richest in Southeast Asia from 1965 to 1986. – Pauline Macaraeg/Rappler.com

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