Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC)
In this report, results from the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) are presented. PIAAC is designed to measure the skills of the adult population in three domains; literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments. The target population in this survey is adults aged between 16 and 65 years old.
Data were collected through face-to-face interviews. The respondents first answered a comprehensive background questionnaire, and then completed proficiency tests, either on a computer or on paper. In the Norwegian PIAAC, the proficiency tests were only in Norwegian.
Literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments are key information processing skills. Literacy is the ability to understand, evaluate, use and engage with written texts to participate in society, to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential. Numeracy is the ability to access, use, interpret and communicate mathematical information and ideas in order to engage in and manage the mathematical demands of a range of situations in adult life. Problem solving in technology-rich environments is the ability to use digital technology, communication tools and networks to acquire and evaluate information, communicate with others and perform practical tasks.
The first results from PIAAC, published in 2013, showed that Norwegian adults have high skills in an international context. Norway is one of four countries where the adult population is above average in all three skill domains. However, the variation between groups is large, and lower proficiency levels are found among the oldest age group, women, immigrants and people not in employment or education.
PIAAC has two predecessors. International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) was conducted in Norway in 1998, and Adult Literacy and Life Skills (ALL) was conducted in 2003. The results from IALS and ALL are not directly comparable with results from PIAAC in the form they were originally published, but the data material from the previous surveys has now been reprocessed to be comparable with PIAAC. From IALS it is possible to compare results in literacy with PIAAC, and from ALL, literacy and numeracy results can be compared with PIAAC. Problem solving in technology-rich environments is new in PIAAC and not comparable with results from any of the previous surveys.
By investigating available trend data, we find that the average score in literacy has decreased from 294 points in IALS to 278 points in PIAAC. This trend is also apparent in Sweden and Denmark. The decrease is especially pronounced in the youngest age group, and the adults with the lowest proficiency have a lower score in PIAAC than in IALS. We also find a decrease in the average score in numeracy between ALL and PIAAC.
Those on a low proficiency level in one of the skills measured in PIAAC, very often also have low proficiency in the other two skills. The correlation between skills in literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments is clear. In the group with low proficiency levels we find an over-representation of immigrants, people not in education or employment and people with lower education.