Literacy in the Information Age

Final Report of the International Adult Literacy Survey

Literacy in the Information Age, the final report from the International Adult Literacy Survey, presents evidence on the nature and magnitude of the literacy gaps faced by OECD countries. It offers new insights into the factors that influence the development of adult skills in various settings - at home, at work and across the 20 countries for which comparable household assessment results are included. Findings point to large differences in the average level and population distribution of literacy skills both within and between countries. Low literacy skills are evident among all adult groups in significant - albeit varying - proportions. Literacy proficiency varies considerably according to home background factors and educational attainment in most of the countries surveyed. However, the relationship between literacy skills and educational attainment is complex. Many adults have managed to attain high levels of literacy proficiency despite a low level of education; conversely, some have low literacy skills despite a high level of education. These differences matter both economically and socially: literacy affects, inter alia, labour quality and flexibility, employment, training opportunities, income from work and wider participation in civic society. Improving the literacy skills of the population remains a large challenge for policy makers. The results suggest that high-quality foundation learning in schools is important but insufficient as a sole means to that end. Policies directed at the workplace and family settings are also needed. The employers’ role in promoting and rewarding literacy skills is particularly important for skills development.

25 May 2000 204 pages English Also available in: French 9789264181762 (PDF)

Author(s): OECD and Statistics Canada