The OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) has published the initial results of its worldwide survey of adults’ skills. The report focuses on the literacy, numeracy and ‘key information processing competencies’ of 166,000 adults in 24 countries*.
The digital skills of the participants were tested on laptops using simulations of databases, emails, word processing and websites. The report confirms that those with lower skills are likely to be left behind, not just in the job market but also in their ability to access services and participate in society.
The highest performing countries overall were Finland and Japan – in both of these countries 20% of the participants performed at the highest level. The skills they demonstrated included the ability to perform multi-step operations to integrate, interpret, or synthesise information from complex or lengthy texts, make complex inferences and interpret or evaluate subtle claims or arguments.
The importance of building skills outside formal education
One of the key messages in the report is the importance of a lifelong learning approach to skills development. Participation in adult learning helps to develop and maintain literacy and numeracy skills. In countries with higher participation levels in adult education, adults demonstrate higher literacy and numeracy skills overall. Levels of participation in adult education are highest in Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden (over 60%).
The OECD hopes that the findings will help policy makers assess the performance of education, training and social policies in developing the skills needed in the workforce – and society in general.
The report comes with some interactive charts where you can compare countries against other and against the OECD average. You can also view the findings by age of participants and education and occupation. You can access the skills report here.
*Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, UK, USA.
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