International Evidence Review of Basic Skills: Learning from High performing and Improving Countries


The 2012 Survey of Adult Skills (ISAS), part of the OECD’s Programme for  International Assessment of Adult Competences of Adult Competences (PIAAC) provides governments with data on levels of skills (and skills need) among the adult population, while also enabling cross-country comparisons in its three dimensions: literacy, numeracy and problem solving in a technology rich environment (PS-TRE).

This research focused on countries that were high-performing in at least one of the three dimensions assessed by the OECD’s Survey of Adult Skills, or rapidly improving in literacy. The study comprised of three strands: (1) a rapid review and assessment of international evidence; (2) analysis of data from the International Survey of Adult Skills conducted as part of PIAAC, and (3) four in-depth country case studies which included interviews with basic skills experts and English and non-English language literature reviews.

Specifically the research set out to explore whether high-performing and improving countries share common socio-demographic, economic or educational characteristics with each other and with England, to examine the characteristics behind high performance in these countries and to investigate basic skills delivery to adults including programmes aimed at younger people and initiatives that use learning technology. In so doing, the main aim of this study was to draw lessons that could inform future adult basic skills policy, its delivery and the application of skills by adults in England.

JD Carpentieri, J, Litster., and D, Mallows (NRDC) and C, Johnson. (Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute). International Evidence Review of Basic Skills: Learning from High performing and Improving Countries. BIS RESEARCH PAPER NUMBER 209. London (January 2015).

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