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A guest post from Jan Hagston, a keynote speaker at the recent Literacy forum at the library.
At the Lit up! Literacy forum at the library, I spoke about the results of the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), one of the largest adult skills surveys ever performed.
Australia is one of 24 countries that took part in PIACC. People from ages 15-74 completed the survey in the domains of literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments (PSTRE). Literacy and numeracy scores were grouped into six skill levels and PSTRE scores were grouped into four skill levels.
The overall results for Australia show that 14.1% of the population have literacy levels at or below level 1 (below level 1 is the lowest level), and another 30.1% have skills at level 2. For numeracy 21.8% are at or below level 1 and 32.5% are at level 2.
So, what does this mean?
People at or below level 1 are only able to undertake basic tasks such as locating information in brief texts or carrying out simple processes such as counting, sorting and performing basic arithmetic function with whole numbers. The results show that there are at least 2,361,200 adult Australians who have only the most basic literacy skills and nearly 3 ½ million with only basic numeracy skills.
People working in libraries will be interested to know that one of the questions at level 6 in the literacy domain involved searching a library catalogue.
While there are ongoing discussions about what level of literacy and numeracy adults need in Australian society, it is hard to argue that having skills at or below level 1 is satisfactory for individuals or for the community. We can only imagine how this might restrict our life and our options.
Libraries play a crucial role in addressing the issues identified by PIACC. They provide community spaces that support people in building literacy skills and foster a culture around valuing literacy.
For more information about PIACC go to: