Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies
The Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) is a worldwide study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 24 countries of cognitive and workplace skills. The main aim is to be able to assess the skills of literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments, and use the collected information to help countries develop ways to further improve these skills. The focus is on the working-age population (between the ages of 16 and 65). The first data was released on October 8, 2013. A new PIAAC survey is expected to be published in 2021/2022.
Since the early 1990s the need for assessing literary skills in developed countries has been addressed by two large international surveys. The first was the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) which was implemented in 1994, 1996, and 1998. The second was the International Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey carried out in 2003, and between 2006 and 2008.
Basic skills assessed
Three central basic skills are assessed in PIAAC: literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments.
Literacy encompasses the ability to understand, use and interpret written texts. Literacy is a prerequisite for developing one’s knowledge and potential and participating in society. The literacy domain in PIAAC includes tasks such as reading and understanding a drug label or a brief newspaper article. In addition, there are tasks that involve digital media, such as reading an online job posting.
Numeracy refers to the ability to access, use and interpret everyday mathematical information in order to manage mathematical demands in daily life. This is measured, for example, with items involving the evaluation of a special offer or the interpretation of numerical information in figures and tables.
Problem solving in technology-rich environments
PIAAC is the first international survey to implement problem solving in technology-rich environments (ICT). This key skill is defined as the ability to successfully use digital technologies, communication tools and networks to search for, communicate and interpret information. The first wave of PIAAC focuses on how persons access and make use of information in a computer-based environment. Items include sorting and sending e-mails, filling out digital forms, and evaluating the informational content and credibility of different websites.
PIAAC was initiated by the OECD member states in 2008 and, like PISA, it is designed as a multi-cycle programme. Round 1 took place in 2008-13 (main study in 2011), supplementary Round 2 in 2012-16, and Round 3 in 2014-18 (main study in 2016-17). Subsequent cycles will allow future changes in adult skills to be monitored and analysed and will provide first indications of where improvements have been achieved and deficits persist. Twenty-four countries participated in PIAAC Round I. Nine additional countries also expressed interest in participating in PIAAC. At least 5 000 randomly selected respondents between the ages of 16 and 65 were interviewed and assessed in each participating country. The survey was carried out as a personal interview comprising a questionnaire followed by a skills assessment, a computer- or paper-based version of which was independently completed by the respondent in the presence of the interviewer; the entire interview (including the assessment) took between 1 1/2 and 2 hours to administer.
The results were published in 2013, together with summaries in 25 languages.
|Country||Literacy||Numeracy||Problem solving in technology-rich environments||Mean difference, men vs. women||Native vs. immigrant|
|Mean score||% Non- starters||% < Level1||Mean score||% < Level1||Mean score||%No ICT||% < Level1||Literacy||Numeracy||Literacy|
|England/N. Ireland (UK)||272.5||1.4||3.3||261.7||6.3||222.9||14.6||15.1||2.7||14.3||34.3|
- Sub-national entities (Belgium and UK) are placed at the end followed by two partner countries (Cyprus and Russia) who took part. The figures for Russia are preliminary and do not include Moscow or any items in the 'Missing' category.
- Participants were ranked at 5 levels (3 in problem solving). Level 1 corresponds to 176 points. Those who scored less than level 1 are listed above as well as those marked as 'Non-starters' above or 'Missing' in the report, referring to 'literacy-related non-responses' due to mental or learning disabilities or language difficulties. These were marked at 85 (out of 500) in calculating the mean figures.
- The last three columns show the extra points scored on average by the first group compared with the second. The last compares native-born native language speakers with foreign-born foreign language speakers.
- France, Italy, Spain and Cyprus did not participate in the Problem Solving test, which is officially described as 'Problem Solving in technology-rich environments'. The 'No ICT' column includes those who had no computer experience, opted out or failed a basic IT competence test.
- Cyprus only refers to that part under control of the Republic of Cyprus.
- Missing: Individuals at this level were unable to complete the background questionnaire.
- Below Level 1: can read brief texts on familiar topics and locate a single piece of specific information identical in form to information in the question or directive.
- Level 1: (176 points) can complete simple forms, understand basic vocabulary, determine the meaning of sentences, and read continuous texts with a degree of fluency.
- Level 2: (226 points) can integrate two or more pieces of information based on criteria, compare and contrast or reason about information and make low-level inferences
- Level 3: (276 points) can understand and respond appropriately to dense or lengthy texts, including continuous, non-continuous, mixed, or multiple pages.
- Level 4: (326 points) can perform multiple-step operations to integrate, interpret, or synthesise information from complex or lengthy continuous, non-continuous, mixed, or multiple-type texts that involve conditional and/or competing information.
- Level 5: (376 points) can perform tasks that involve searching for and integrating information across multiple, dense texts; constructing syntheses of similar and contrasting ideas or points of view, or evaluating evidence and arguments.
For details of the numeracy and ICT tests see OECD 2013.
- OECD (2013). OECD Skills Outlook 2013.
- Thorn, William (2009). "International Adult Literacy and Basic Skills Surveys in the OECD Region". OECD Education Working Papers. OECD Publishing. 26. Retrieved 2013-04-26.
- Beatrice Rammstedt; Daniela Ackermann; Susanne Helmschrott; Anja Klaukien; Débora B. Maehler; Silke Martin; Natascha Massing; Anouk Zabal (2013). PIAAC 2012: Overview of the Main Results (PDF).
- OECD 2013
- Official PIAAC web site
- Download PIAAC result and summary at GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences
- Literacy Lost: Canada's Basic Skills Shortfall, Canada West Foundation, December 2018
- 2018 International Yearbook of Adult Education, Trends and Issues in Canadian Adult Education Research, wbv.de