Innovation in education

Adult Literacy


Governments and other stakeholders are increasingly interested in assessing the skills of their adult populations in order to monitor how well prepared they are for the challenges of the modern knowledge-based society. Adults are expected to use information in complex ways and to maintain and enhance their literacy skills to adopt to ever changing technologies. Literacy is important not only for personal development, but also for positive educational, social and economic outcomes.


On an international level, there are three adult literacy surveys, the Adult Literacy and Lifeskills Survey (ALL), the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS), and the OECD’s Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) which is currently in progress. Data from ALL and IALS  reveal that low skills are found in countries and that these low skills pose problems for individuals trying to cope with work and life in modern societies where the demands for literacy skills are on the increase.


The Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) is designed to assess the current state of the skills of individuals and nations in the new information age. It builds upon earlier conceptions of literacy from IALS in the 1990s and the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey ALL in 2003 and 2006 to facilitate an appropriate assessment of the broad range of literacy skills required for the 21st century. The framework broadens the definition of literacy to make it relevant to the information age, in particular, by including the skills of reading in digital environments.


In PIAAC, “Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society”.


  • Find out more: OECD Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC)








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