There’s been a lot of discussion over the last few years about Australia’s literacy levels and why they are low. According to the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), literacy is the ability to understand, evaluate, use and engage with written texts to:

  • take part in societyWoman reading a document
  • achieve your goals
  • develop your knowledge and potential.

There are many factors that can impact a person’s literacy levels. When these factors affect all of Australia, however, it can bring up questions on a broader level: what’s happening that’s causing so many people to have low levels of literacy? And how are people getting to adulthood with low levels of literacy?

One way we can try and answer these questions is through PIAAC – an international assessment and analysis of adult literacy and problem-solving skills. The ‘survey of adult skills’ is conducted as part of PIAAC with more than 40 countries and economies around the world. The survey measures an adults’ ability in processing information, including literacy, numeracy and problem solving. It gathers information and data about how adults use these skills at home, work and in the wider community. The results collected from PIAAC creates a stronger understanding of different areas, including:

  • how education and training systems are doing
  • literacy levels in Australia
  • the literacy gaps between the job markets and education and training
  • fair access to education
  • socioeconomic progress from one generation to the next
  • young people’s transition from education to work
  • identifying groups of people that are at risk
  • the links between key skills and differences like demographic’s, educational background and health.

Australia was involved in the first cycle of PIAAC in 2011–2012 and will be involved in the second cycle, which is currently being prepared. The data collection process will take place between 2022–2023 and the final report will be published in 2024.

We’ll continue to look at the discussions around the many factors that can impact a persons’ literacy levels in our upcoming newsletters. Stay tuned!