Reports 2013/42

Adult skills in Norway

First results from the OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC)

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The objective of this report is to present the first results from the OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC): The report is commissioned by the Ministry of Education and Research and the Ministry of Labour.

PIAAC is an international survey initiated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The project started in 2008, and the survey has now been carried out in 24 countries. Approximately 5000 respondents aged between 16 and 65 years participated in the Norwegian survey. The data collection period in Norway was between August 2011 and April 2012.

The goal of PIAAC is to measure the adult population’s proficiency in three domains: literacy, numeracy and problem solving in a technology-rich environment. These three domains are considered key information processing skills.

PIAAC is one among several international assessments of skills, and results from this survey are comparable to results from the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) from 1994-1998 and Adult Literacy and Life Skills (ALL) from 2003-2007. Results from the Norwegian PIAAC can also be compared with results from other countries. Throughout the implementation of PIAAC, a number of measures have been taken to ensure comparability across countries.

The first results from the survey indicate that the Norwegian adult population on average is proficient at level 3 in literacy. At this level, one can read texts that are often dense and lengthy, and different types of text. One can identify, interpret or evaluate one or more pieces of information. In many cases, one will have to construct meaning across larger chunks of text, perform multi-step operations, or disregard irrelevant content.

Those aged between 25 and 44 years have the highest proficiency scores in literacy, and the oldest age groups have the lowest proficiency scores. The youngest group, aged 16 to 19, is proficient at a lower level than the adult population as a whole. Proficiency scores are highest among those that have tertiary education and among people who are employed.

Norwegian adults are on average proficient at level 3 in numeracy. At this level, tasks may require several steps and involve problem-solving strategies. Often, tasks will require number sense and spatial sense; recognising and working with mathematical relationships, patterns, and proportions expressed in verbal or numerical form; and interpretation and basic analysis of data and statistics in texts, tables and graphs.

As with literacy, the oldest and the youngest have the lowest proficiency scores in numeracy, and there are positive correlations between proficiency in numeracy, and tertiary education and employment. For numeracy, there is also a pronounced gender difference; men have significantly higher proficiency scores than women.

The proficiency scores in problem solving in a technology-rich environment are higher among the youngest age groups.

Compared with international figures, the Norwegian adult population has relatively high proficiency scores in all three domains. Norway is one of four countries where proficiency scores are above the OECD average in both literacy, numeracy and problem solving in a technology-rich environment. However, those aged between 16 and 24 stand out by having lower proficiency scores than the population as a whole. The literacy proficiency among Norwegian youth is significantly below the OECD average.

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