Numeracy levels among Irish adults significantly below average - OECD survey

Tuesday 08 October 2013 23.22
The OECD survey measured and compared the skills of people aged between 16 and 65 across 24 countries
The OECD survey measured and compared the skills of people aged between 16 and 65 across 24 countries

Numeracy levels among Irish adults are significantly below average when compared to other OECD countries, according to a major international study of numeracy and literacy.

The OECD survey, which was published today, measured and compared the skills of people between 16 and 65 across 24 countries.

The Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies shows Irish adults are ranked at slightly below the overall average in literacy.

This is the first time a study as comprehensive as this one has been carried out by the OECD and 6,000 adults in Ireland participated.

Overall, it finds that Ireland falls down most when it comes to developing higher skill levels among its adult population.

In terms of numeracy, while Ireland's overall score is significantly below average, the gap widens even more when it comes to the amount of adults who perform well or very well.

Just 36% of adults fall into these categories, far below the international average of almost 50%.

In literacy, the percentage of high performers in Ireland is 44.5%, compared to an international average of 50%.

However, when compared to another survey carried out almost 20 years ago, today's results show improvements in literacy levels among Irish adults.

The International Adult Literacy Survey, which was carried out in 1994, found that 22% of Irish adults had only basic literacy skills. Today's survey puts that at 18%.

The IALS survey found 7% of adults were below that basic level. Today's results place just over 4% of Irish adults in that category.

In Ireland, as elsewhere, those aged between 25 and 34 performed best. While those aged 55 or over came in with the lowest scores.

Across most countries, including Ireland, men also outperformed women in terms of numeracy.

The study also attempted to measure technological competence. It is the first time an assessment of this nature has been implemented as part of an international study.

However, the study warns that the findings are not properly representative.

There are also limits to what was examined, for instance no touch screen technology was included. For these and other reasons, the report's findings in this area are regarded as not reliable.