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1 in 6 people has literacy difficulties in Ireland

October 8, 2013

A new OECD survey shows that almost 18% or about 1 in 6, Irish adults are at or below level 1 on a five level literacy scale. Ireland ranks 15 out of 24 participating countries. At this level a person may be unable to understand basic written information.

25% of Irish adults score at or below level 1 for numeracy compared to just over 20% on average across participating countries.

The Irish results of the OECD survey were announced on Tuesday 8 October by the Department of Education and Skills.

For this survey the CSO interviewed 6,000 people aged 16 – 65 in Ireland and assessed their literacy, numeracy and ability to use technology to solve problems and accomplish tasks.

42% of Irish adults score at or below level 1 on using technology to solve problems and accomplish tasks. Six other countries score at similar levels. They include Finland 40%, Estonia 43% and Sweden 44%.

Top headline points

Literacy

  • 17.9% (550,057) of Irish adults are at or below Level 1 on the literacy scale. This compares with 22% at or below Level 1 in the last International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) results in 1997
  • Ireland rates 15 out of 24 countries – England (17.8%); Poland (18.8%); Germany (19%) and Northern Ireland (19.6%)
  • Japan (6.1%) and Finland (10.6%) had the lowest proportions of adults at or below Level 1 in this survey
  • Men and women score much the same on their literacy ratings
  • Adults aged 25 – 34 have the highest literacy mean score in Ireland while adults aged 55 – 65 have the lowest mean score

Numeracy

  • Just over 25% (763,969) of Irish adults score at or below Level 1 for numeracy compared to an average of just over 20% for participating countries
  • Ireland rates 18 out of 24 countries – Poland (23.5%); England (25.5%); and Northern Ireland (26.6%)
  • Japan is the only country to have less than 10% of adults at or below Level 1 on the numeracy scale
  • Males score higher than females by 12 points
  • Adults aged 25 – 34 have the highest literacy mean score in Ireland while adults aged 55 – 65 have the lowest mean score
  • 22.9% of those aged 16 – 24 are at Level 1 compared to 18.5% of those aged 25 – 34 and 36.4% of those aged 55 – 65

Problem Solving in Technology-Rich Environments (PS-TRE)

  • Just over two-fifths (42% – 1,283,467) of Irish adults score at or below Level 1 (29.5% at Level 1, 12.6% below Level 1) on the problem solving scale
  • Ireland is in a group with six other countries with a similar proportion at this level, including Finland (39.9%), Estonia (42.8%) and Sweden (43.9%)
  • Japan scored the highest on problem solving with 27.3% of adults at or below Level 1
  • Males score higher than females by 6 points
  • The highest problem solving mean score in Ireland is achieved by those in the 20 – 24 age group, while the lowest is achieved by those aged 60 – 65

[Census 2011, number of people between 16 – 65 years of age was 3,055,876]

The OECD 2013 survey breaks new ground by collecting a broad range of information including how these skills are used at work and in the community.

Speaking about the survey, Inez Bailey, Director, National Adult Literacy Agency, said:

“The results from the OECD adult skills survey show that 18% of Irish people have difficulty understanding basic written text. The number at or below level 1 in numeracy stands at over 25%, placing Ireland even further down the international rankings in 18th place. This survey confirms findings from other reports that people with the lowest skill levels also have low educational attainment, earn less income, are more likely to be unemployed and have poorer health”.

“Along with a mountain of data now available for further research, this survey challenges how we think about skills. It provides compelling evidence that mass participation in mainstream education is not sufficient to produce strong literacy and numeracy skills for life. The results show that at any one time people’s skills are influenced by factors such as skills used in work and day to day living. Skills are developed and maintained throughout life and are not learnt once during primary education.”

You can read the full Irish report here.

For more information on the OECD adult skills survey see http://www.oecd.org/site/piaac/

 

Ends

 

For more information, media interviews or queries please contact:

Clare McNally

National Adult Literacy Agency

01 4127909 / 087 6486292

www.nala.ie

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