The OECD has launched a new Survey of Adult Skills, which builds on its PISA survey by checking the literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills of the adult population. The survey has been completed by 166,000 adults aged 16–65 in 24 countries.
According to the OECD, the central message from the survey is that what people know, and what they can do with what they know, has a huge impact on their life chances. For example, the median hourly wage of workers scoring highly in literacy (eg, make complex inferences from written texts) is 60% higher than those with a low score (eg, read simple texts to locate a single piece of information).
The survey also shows the dramatic changes that have taken place in recent decades, with many countries now catching and out-performing the US and UK. For example, while the literacy scores of young Koreans (16–24) are much higher than their older (55–65) peers, UK literacy scores are the same for both groups.
Despite much attention being paid to differences between countries, the report points out that 90% of the variation in the survey is within countries, with all nations having significant numbers of people with a low level skills.
The report recommends some key points for policy:
Provide high-quality initial education and lifelong learning opportunities.
Make lifelong learning opportunities accessible to all.
Make sure all children have a strong start in education.
Source: OECD Skills Outlook 2013: First Results from the Survey of Adult Skills (2013), OECD.