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Worldcrunch

From Japan To Italy: Tour OECD's First-Ever National Rankings Of Adult Skills

PARIS - The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), whose global ranking of schooling levels has become a reliable source of national pride and shame, has now set out to measure how different countries in the developed world stack up in adult skills.

(Read this piece by OECD's Andreas Schleicher, who has spearheaded both the education and adult skills studies)

The OECD tested some 157,000 adults in 24 education systems, representing populations of 724 million people, to study the levels of literacy, numeracy and digital skills. The target population for the survey were adults aged 16-65, living in the country at the time of data collection, irrespective of nationality, citizenship or language status. 

Take a MONDO tour of some key findings and national rankings, according to literacy and numeracy. 

1. Best And Equal

US Flag

JAPAN

2013-10-08 Read Later
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Roughly every fifth Japanese person reads at a high level. Interestingly, the data show no relationship between a country’s average literacy skills and the impact of social background on those skills, suggesting that high average proficiency does not need to come at the expense of social inequities. Japan combines its above-average performance with a high level of equity.

 

Literacy ranking: 1

Numeracy ranking: 1

2. Old vs. Young

US Flag

FINLAND

2013-10-08 Read Later
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Older Finns performed at around the average among the countries taking part in the Survey of Adult Skills while younger Finns are, together with young adults from Japan, Korea and the Netherlands, today’s top performers.

 

Literary ranking: 2

Numeracy ranking: 2

3. Outperforming Graduates

US Flag

NETHERLANDS

2013-10-08 Read Later
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On average, Dutch 25-34 year-olds who have only completed high school can easily outperform Italian or Spanish university graduates of the same age. The performance gaps observed across countries cannot be explained by the proportion of the age group attending third-level education.

 

Literacy ranking: 3

Numeracy ranking: 4

 

Photo by LeahLikesLemon via Flickr

4. Older And Wiser

US Flag

AUSTRALIA

2013-10-08 Read Later
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In most of the countries, the relationship between the socioeconomic background and skills proficiency was much weaker among younger adults than older adults. However, in Australia the reverse is true. 

 

Literacy ranking: 4

Numeracy ranking: 13

5. Scandinavia's IT Factor

US Flag

SWEDEN

2013-10-08 Read Later
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The Nordic countries and the Netherlands have been far more successful than other countries in creating an environment in which most adults have experience with computers and few have only the most basic computer skills.

 

Literacy ranking: 5

Numeracy ranking: 3

6. Learning Later In Life

US Flag

NORWAY

2013-10-08 Read Later
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In Norway participation in adult education exceeds 60%, while in countries like Italy, the rate is well below half of that.

 

Literacy ranking: 6

Numeracy ranking: 5

 

Photo by Old Shoe Woman via Flickr

7. Monetary Correlation?

US Flag

ESTONIA

2013-10-08 Read Later
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Hourly wages are strongly associated with reading proficiency. The median hourly wage of workers who score higher on the literacy scale is more than 60% higher than that of workers who score at or below the lowest level. But again, these differences vary significantly across countries. In the Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Sweden, differences in wages are much narrower than those in Canada, Germany, Ireland, Korea and the United States.

 

Literacy ranking: 7

Numeracy ranking: 12

8. On-The-Job Training

US Flag

BELGIUM

2013-10-08 Read Later
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In all countries except Norway, participation rates in job-related education and training are at least twice as high among adults who attained at least Level 4 in literacy than they are among those who attained at most Level 1.

 

In Austria, Belgium, Japan, Poland and Spain the odds are larger than three to one, and in Italy, South Korea and the Slovak Republic, highly literate adults are between four and five times as likely to benefit from such training as people with poor literacy skills.

 

Literacy ranking: 8

Numeracy ranking: 8

 

 

Photo by mk30 via Flickr

9. Unemployment Effect

US Flag

CZECH REPUBLIC

2013-10-08 Read Later
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In many countries, including the Czech Republic, more than 20% of the most proficient adults are out of the labor force. This represents a relatively large pool of skills that could be activated. In many cases, the underuse of highly skilled workers is a reflection of a broader lack of jobs to match skill levels of workers.

 

Literacy ranking: 9

Numeracy ranking: 9

10. Access To Learning

US Flag

SLOVAKIA

2013-10-08 Read Later
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In some countries, improvements in access to and the quality of education for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds have weakened the relationship between socioeconomic background and skills proficiency among younger adults.

 

Literacy ranking: 10

Numeracy ranking: 7

11. Skills Gap

US Flag

CANADA

2013-10-08 Read Later
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The skills gap between adults with third-level education and those who have not completed secondary education varies considerably: in Canada and the United States, for example, it is over one third wider than it is in Australia, Austria, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Japan, Norway and the Slovak Republic.

 

Literacy ranking: 11

Numeracy ranking: 14

 

Photo by Blue Mountains Library via Flickr

12. Rising Generations

US Flag

SOUTH KOREA

2013-10-08 Read Later
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The Survey of Adult Skills results show how effective countries have been in developing literacy skills through successive generations. The gains made in some countries illustrate the pace of progress that is achievable. For example, South Korea is among the three lowest-performing countries when comparing the skills proficiency of 55-65 year-olds; however, when comparing proficiency among 16-24 year-olds, South Korea ranks second only to Japan.

 

Literacy ranking: 12

Numeracy ranking: 15

13. Knowledge Gap

US Flag

UNITED KINGDOM

2013-10-08 Read Later
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The UK is among the three highest-performing countries in literacy when comparing 55-65 year-olds, but among the bottom three when comparing literacy proficiency among 16-24 year-olds.

 

Literacy ranking: 13

Numeracy ranking: 16

 

Photo by art crimes via Flickr

14. Lifting From Below

US Flag

DENMARK

2013-10-08 Read Later
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Results from the Survey of Adult Skills suggest that Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden have been most successful in extending opportunities for adult learning to those adults who score at or below the lowest level.

 

Literacy ranking: 14

Numeracy ranking: 6

 

 

Photo by World Bank Photo Collection via Flickr

15. Does Higher Ed Make A Difference?

US Flag

GERMANY

2013-10-08 Read Later
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The performance gaps observed across countries cannot be explained by the proportion of the age group attending third-level education. In Austria and Germany, a comparatively small share of 25-34 year-olds are third level graduates, but that age group performs around the average on the literacy scale, while Japan has a large share of tertiary graduates who do very well on the same scale. The picture is similar, albeit less pronounced, among people with less formal education.

 

Literacy ranking: 15

Numeracy ranking: 11

16. Social Background Matters

US Flag

UNITED STATES

2013-10-08 Read Later
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Social background affects literacy skills. In some countries more so than in others, children whose parents have low levels of education have a significantly lower proficiency than those whose parents have higher levels of education, even after taking other factors into account.

 

Literacy ranking: 16

Numeracy ranking: 20

 

Photo by US Department of Education via Flickr

17. University Is No Guarantee

US Flag

AUSTRIA

2013-10-08 Read Later
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In virtually all countries, there is also significant overlap in the distribution of skills among individuals with different levels of educational attainment. For example, a surprisingly high share of individuals with secondary education as their highest level of attainment outperform adults with a university degree.

 

Literacy ranking: 17

Numeracy ranking: 10

18. Keeping At It

US Flag

CYPRUS

2013-10-08 Read Later
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As individuals age and spend more time out of education, other factors, such as participation in adult learning activities, the tasks they perform at work, and engagement in activities involving the use of literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skills outside of work, become increasingly important for enhancing and maintaining these skills.

 

Literacy ranking: 18

Numeracy ranking: n/a

19. Skills = Employment

US Flag

POLAND

2013-10-08 Read Later
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The large shares of low-skilled adults outside the labor force present additional challenges to policy makers because these adults’ lack of skills is likely to be closely linked to their prospects for employment. Indeed, on average 7% of those at or below the lowest literacy level are unemployed, compared with less than 4% of those performing at the highest levels.

 

Literary ranking: 19

Numeracy ranking: 17

20. Practice Makes Perfect

US Flag

IRELAND

2013-10-08 Read Later
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Low-skilled adults risk getting trapped in a situation in which they rarely benefit from adult learning, and their skills remain weak or deteriorate over time – which makes it even harder for these individuals to participate in learning activities. This presents a formidable policy challenge to governments.

 

Literacy ranking: 20

Numeracy ranking: 19

 

Photo by seng1011 via Flickr

21. Immigrant Effects

US Flag

FRANCE

2013-10-08 Read Later
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In most countries, immigrants with a foreign-language background have significantly lower proficiency in literacy and numeracy than native-born adults. Countries with relatively large immigrant populations, such as France, need to consider more effective ways to support immigrants in learning the host language, through pre- and/or post-arrival interventions.

 

Literacy ranking: 21

Numeracy ranking: 18

22. The Meaning Or Poor Literacy

US Flag

SPAIN

2013-10-08 Read Later
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Only 1 in 20 adults in Spain is proficient at the highest level of literacy. Nearly 3 out of 10 adults performs at or below the lowest level of proficiency in both literacy and numeracy. These individuals can, at best, read relatively short texts to locate a single piece of information that is identical to the information given in the question or directive, understand basic vocabulary, determine the meaning of sentences, and read continuous texts with some degree of fluency.

 

Literacy ranking: 22

Numeracy ranking: 22.

 

Photo: Aviseful via Instagram

23. Lower Skills, Poorer Use

US Flag

ITALY

2013-10-08 Read Later
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Italy's stubborn unemployment may be both a cause and effect of its poor ranking. Less than 5% of the Italian workforce attains the top two levels in literacy proficiency, and yet even the one in four Italian adults with that top level of proficiency does not participate in the labor market at all.

 

Literacy ranking: 23

Numeracy ranking: 21 


Photo by the Italian voice via Flickr

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