blackboard drawing paper planeThe OECD’s Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) conducts the Survey of Adult Skills. The survey measures adults’ proficiency in key information-processing skills – literacy, numeracy and problem solving – and gathers information and data on how adults use their skills at home, at work and in the wider community. PIAAC was conducted by ABS in Australia in 2011/12 and was an extension of the earlier International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) and the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALLS) surveys. Australia participated in IALS in 1996 and ALLS in 2006.

These surveys and reports have been instrumental in highlighting the issue of adult literacy and numeracy in Australia, and helped to dispel the myth that Australia is a fully literate society. The results were the rationale for why Australia developed its National Foundation Skills Strategy (still available at: PIAAC was named as the vehicle for measuring the success of the National Strategy.

Reports are still being produced by the OECD and other participating countries (34 all up now) based on analysis of the rich dataset from PIAAC.  The OECD in fact published a new report focused on Australia last year. This report was called Building Skills for All in Australia: Policy Insights from the Survey of Adult Skills. This report highlighted that numeracy is a major issue for Australia, especially for women. It is available via this blog:

Another new OECD PIAAC based report was issued just this past week about numeracy, and the significant relationship between numeracy proficiency and health. See:

The second cycle of PIAAC is now underway

Planning and development for the second cycle of the PIAAC survey commenced at the beginning of this year, with the actual survey due to be conducted in 2021/22 with the results and reports due to be published in 2023. Expert Groups have been appointed and the definitions, constructs and frameworks that drive the surveys are being updated to better reflect 21st Century skills and literacy, numeracy and problem solving demands. New assessment content is now being drafted to reflect those changes and updates.

Dave Tout
Dave is a Senior Research Fellow in Numeracy & Mathematics at the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). Dave was appointed in January 2018 by the OECD as the Chair of the Numeracy Expert Group for PIAAC Cycle 2.