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ALL is happening, with numeracy included
Australian Language and Literacy Matters (2005)
  • Dave Tout, ACER
The Adult Literacy and Lifeskills (ALL) Survey (formerly known as the International Life Skills Survey (ILSS)) is a large-scale, comparative survey that goes beyond previous international literacy studies. In addition to the literacy skills measured in the previous International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS), ALL is designed to identify and measure a broader range of skills in the adult population in each participating country. The skills to be directly measured are: prose and document literacy; numeracy; problem solving/analytical reasoning. In addition the assessment will be accompanied by a comprehensive Background Questionnaire, which will collect participant information and indirectly measure two other skill domains as well. Those skills are: teamwork, and ICT literacy. This first international comparative report from the survey was published in May 2005, and includes data for Canada, Norway, Italy, Switzerland, the United States, Bermuda and the state of Nuevo Leon in Mexico. Further reports on national data such as Canada and the US are due out in late 2005. A second wave of collection is underway in South Korea, Hungary, New Zealand, and the Netherlands. Australia is in the picture as well and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) will be conducting the survey across Australia in 2006. There are other countries interested as well and they will come on board in future years to extend the international comparative aspects. Key motivations for conducting the overall ALL survey are: to inform policymakers and educators regarding levels (distributions) of various skills, including of numeracy; to explore factors associated with observed skill levels (eg literacy); and to examine links between numeracy (or other skills) and important human capital and social variables, such as earnings, labour-force participation, unemployment, or health-related behaviours. For the first time the ALL survey will enable policy-makers, planners, researchers and practitioners to have data about the numeracy and problem solving levels of the general adult population and about variables associated with it. Along with that, there will be the comparative data from the 1996 IALS data for document and prose literacy scales. Behind such surveys as the IALS and ALL there is a wealth of ideas and concepts that can be of interest to the wider educational sector. These surveys are not just about the final statistics that are released that show that x number or percent of people are at such and such a level, and (yet again) Australia falls well behind Sweden. Too often there is too much focus on these public statistics, and rarely is more detailed analysis undertaken of the data and what is available through the Background Questionnaire information. There are data, concepts and theoretical works behind these surveys that should be of interest and of use to researchers and teachers. Unfortunately in Australia there seems to have been little of that sort of reflection, analysis or research undertaken on the IALS framework or data. This is not true of other countries. In Jan Hagston's research, she researched what other countries had done with their IALS data, and her report documents a wide range of activities and possible follow up research questions that Australia could have attempted to take up and answer. Since then further research has come out of the international IALS data. One of the more interesting was in regards to human capital and the knowledge economy which demonstrated, amongst other things, that investment in increasing the literacy skills of adults has a direct and positive impact on labour productivity and in GDP per capita. It highlighted that the greatest impact was gained by investing in improving the skills at the lower levels of IALS and that the relationship between investment in human capital and economic performance is much stronger if women's literacy skills are considered rather than men's. In the initial analysis and results coming out from the first wave of the 2003 ALL countries, the data seems to be indicating that numeracy plays a more important role in economic returns for individuals than do prose or document literacy, and seems to confirm that men outperform women on the numeracy scale. It is hoped that Australia's investment in ALL will result in valuable data and outcomes for all interested in improving the literacy and numeracy skills of the Australian population - including Government, policy and program makers, educational organisations, researchers, teachers and trainers.
  • Adults,
  • Basic skills,
  • Cognitive ability,
  • Cognitive skills,
  • Testing,
  • Numeracy,
  • Literacy,
  • Problem solving,
  • Surveys,
  • Questionnaires,
  • Adult education
Publication Date
Citation Information
Dave Tout. "ALL is happening, with numeracy included" Australian Language and Literacy Matters Vol. 2 Iss. 3 (2005)
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