Adult skills study results to be revealed

The results of a five year study into the link between skills and outcomes in educational, social and labour-market contexts are to be published – and could have far-reaching implications for developing adults’ skills in advanced economies.

by Bob Little, Senior Partner - Bob Little Press & PR


The 16th international conference on ‘Human Capital and Investments in Education’ takes place on 10th October in the Congress Centre of Prague’s University of Finance and Administration – and it’s there that the results of the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) will be revealed.


PIAAC focuses on the skills people need for success in the information age. It looks at the skills people use in their jobs, including: reading; numeracy; team work; communication; presentation skills; information and technology skills.


The PIAAC project has been organised under the auspices of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Open to all OECD member countries, the PIAAC project involves some 25 countries, including the UK, and continues an earlier survey of functional literacy - the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS/SIALS) which was carried out in 1998 and was co-ordinated by the OECD.


Commissioned by the OECD, PIAAC investigates the link between skills and outcomes in educational, social and labour-market contexts. The five-year PIAAC study has examined 21st-century skills of adults in more than two dozen countries. The survey has measured the literacy and numeracy skills of people between the ages of 16 and 65. In particular it looks at how well these individuals solve problems in technology-rich environments.


PIAAC aims to build on the work of previous national and international adult surveys, to provide a more complete picture of human capital than has ever been available to policymakers in participating countries.


PIAAC participants have taken an assessment on a computer. That assessment has an adaptive design, allowing researchers to achieve accurate results with fewer questions than would be necessary in a paper-and-pencil format. No large-scale assessment survey of this kind has ever used this design before.


The PIAAC results should impact on policy agendas concerning productivity, competitiveness and social inclusion. It’s an ambitious and innovative assessment that aims to provide much-needed information about the skills of adults in advanced economies.


The programme’s supporters claim that it will: provide policymakers in each participating country with a profile of their country’s adult population in terms of the knowledge, skills and competencies thought to underlie personal and societal success; assess the relationship between these competencies and various social, educational and economic outcomes; gauge how successful education and training systems are at generating these outcomes, and help to identify the factors that policymakers could address to enhance these competencies.


In the light of increasing competition in global markets; the continuing rise of economies in the East as well as other areas of the world; the seemingly unstoppable march of technological progress, and other cultural and demographic changes, the results of this study could prove valuable to policymakers. As such, as a learning technology specialist based in the Czech Republic said: “It’s good to know that something like this has been going on under the auspices of the OECD.”


Of course, the sort of information that the PIAAC study will uncover is useful to know. Hopefully – for it to have practical value - the pace of all these changes will now slow down long enough for the PIAAC results to guide the decision makers to make wise policies that will promote appropriate adult skills not just for today’s challenges but tomorrow’s as well.



Bob Little: for over 20 years, Bob Little has specialised in writing about, and commentating on, corporate learning – especially e-learning – and technology-related subjects. His work has been published in the UK, Continental Europe, the USA and Australia. You can contact Bob via This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it His e-book, ‘Perspectives on Learning Technologies’ (e-book; ASIN: B00A9K1VVS) is available from The Endless Bookcase and from Amazon. It contains over 200 pages of observations on issues in learning technologies, principally for learning & development professionals.