United States

Concerted Action Necessary to Address U.S. Adult Skills Challenge, says OECD


Washington, November 12, 2013 — An OECD study published today says the United States should take concerted action to address the adult skills challenge, warning it could progressively fall behind other countries. The study argues that low-skilled populations face a bleak future, creating challenges both to equity and social cohesion.

Among several recommendations, the study finds that substantial improvements are needed in initial schooling. The U.S. should also build awareness of the implications of weak basic skills among those adults most affected, said the OECD.

The report entitled “Time for the US to Reskill – What the Survey of Adult Skills Says” outlines policy implications for the United States stemming from the findings of a recent international survey* by the OECD comparing literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skills of adults. The results of that survey, first published in October 2013, revealed that the U.S. has fewer top performers when it comes to literacy and numeracy skills than most of the other countries surveyed.

Among the policy implications for the United States are:

  • substantial improvements are needed in initial schooling;
  • effective learning pathways should be available for young adults after leaving high school;
  • programs to address basic skills should be linked to employability,
  • adult learning programs should be adapted to diverse needs, and effectively co‑ordinated;
  • awareness of basic skills challenges needs to be increased;
  • action should be well-supported with evidence.

For more information, media are invited to contact Viktoria Kis or Simon Field in the OECD’s Education and Skills Directorate or Miguel Gorman of the OECD’s Washington Center. The “Time for the US to Reskill – What the Survey of Adult Skills Says” report can be found here.


* Around 166 000 adults aged 16 to 65 were surveyed in 24 countries and sub-national regions: 22 OECD member countries – Australia, Austria, Belgium (Flanders), Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, the Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom (England and Northern Ireland), and the United States; and two partner countries – Cyprus** and the Russian Federation.

** A. Note by Turkey: The information in this document with reference to “Cyprus” relates to the southern part of the Island.There is no single authority representing both Turkish and Greek Cypriot people on the Island. Turkey recognises the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). Until a lasting and equitable solution is found within the context of the United Nations, Turkey shall preserve its position concerning the “Cyprus issue”.

B. Note by all the European Union Member States of the OECD and the European Union: The Republic of Cyprus is recognised by all members of the United Nations with the exception of Turkey. The information in this document relates to the area under the effective control of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus.


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