The OECD's Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) survey measures adults’ proficiency in key information-processing skills - literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments - and gathers information and data on how adults use their skills at home, at work and in the wider community. The survey is conducted once every ten years (the last survey was published in 2013) and therefore records for the individual years requested are not available.
Ireland was one of 25 countries that participated in the first round of the OECD’s PIAAC survey in 2011-12, which was primarily undertaken to provide data on key adult skills, namely literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments. Ireland had the third highest response rate of participating countries at 72%, with almost 6,000 adults between the ages of 16 and 65 responding to the survey.
The survey found that on the literacy scale, Irish adults achieved an adjusted mean score of 266, slightly above the survey average score of 265, placing Ireland 19 out of the 34 countries that participated to date.
At the lower levels of proficiency, 17.9% of Irish adults scored at or below level 1 for literacy proficiency compared to the survey average of 20.3% of adults across the 34 participating countries. This was an improvement when compared to the 1997 International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS), in which 22% of Irish adults were assessed as being at Level 1 or below.
Ireland will also participate in the next PIAAC survey, which will be published in 2023.
Adult literacy provision is delivered through a number of dedicated programmes delivered by the overall Education and Training Board (ETB) adult literacy service. Last year, over €33million was provided to support adult literacy and numeracy provision for over 60,000 beneficiaries, with a further 16,000 availing of www.writeon.ie, an interactive web site to help people improve their reading, writing and numbers skills online.
A number of key policy initiatives/strategies are being implemented which are expected to improve Ireland’s outcomes in the key areas. These include the implementation of the recommendations of the adult literacy review published in 2013 via the Further Education and Training (FET) Strategy 2014 -2019 and the FET Literacy and Numeracy Strategy. These included the recommendation that participants on adult literacy programmes are offered more intensive provision, with a minimum of six hours a week. Since the publication of the FET Strategy, a number of other strategies have been published which include recommendations relevant to promoting literacy and numeracy through the use of technology enhanced learning and building the competence of learning practitioners and associates in the FET sector to deliver stand alone and integrated literacy and numeracy provision. The FET Literacy and Numeracy Strategy sets out 12 inter- related elements which aim to promote, develop and encourage literacy and numeracy skills in the adult population.
Progress to date includes the development and launch of the national awareness campaign, ‘Take the First Step’, development of national guidelines for the initial and on-going screening and assessment of participants, and the publication of a number of research projects including the examination of integrating literacy and numeracy in FET programmes and an examination of barriers to participation in FET programmes.