Literacy in Ireland

A new OECD survey shows that 1 in 6 Irish adults has difficulty understanding basic written text. 1 in 4 people find it difficult to do simple maths calculations.

1 in 6 adults has literacy difficulties in Ireland.

 

The OECD Adult Skills Survey shows that 17.9% or about 1 in 6, Irish adults are at or below level 1 on a five level literacy scale. Ireland ranks 15th out of 24 participating countries. At this level a person may be unable to understand basic written information.

25% or 1 in 4 Irish adults score at or below level 1 for numeracy compared to just over 20% on average across participating countries. This places Ireland even further down the international rankings in 19th place.

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%.

For this survey the Central Statistic Office (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. The survey was conducted in Ireland between August 2011 and March 2012. The results were announced in October 2013.

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]