A selection of indicators from Skills Matter: Further Results from the Survey of Adult Skills .
Adults who are highly proficient in literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments, as measured by the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC), are likely to be able to make the most of the opportunities created by the technological and structural changes modern societies are going through. Those who struggle to use new technologies are at greater risk of losing out. Adults with a higher proficiency tend to have not only better outcomes in the labour market than their less-proficient peers (in terms of employment and wages), but they also report better results in many aspects of individual well-being. Individuals with a higher proficiency in literacy report to be healthier, believe to have more impact on the political process, trust more in others, and participate more in volunteer or associative activities.
Skills measured in the survey are far from being equally distributed. In almost all countries/economies, around one in five adults has poor reading skills, one in four adults has no or only limited experience with computers or lacks confidence in their ability to use computers and nearly one in two adults have a low proficiency in problem solving in technology-rich environments. Various factors are associated with lower skills. One is age, older adults (55-65 year-olds) score lower in literacy than 25-34 year-olds. Moreover, gender gaps in proficiency – which are negligible in literacy and are slightly in favour of men in numeracy – are also more pronounced among older cohorts. Parents’ educational background, a proxy for socio-economic status, also exerts a significant influence on adults’ proficiency in literacy.
A selection of indicators from The ABC of Gender Equality in Education: Aptitude, Behaviour, Confidence, Education at a Glance 2015, PIAAC and TALIS.
Gender inequality in education and in the labour market is a reality and a challenge in various OECD countries. While girls perform better than boys in reading, they score lower in math, and lack self-confidence in scientific subjects. Such differences cannot be explained by differences in ability as girls in top-performing education systems score much higher in math than boys in most other OECD countries; the same is true for boys in reading. On the labour market, even though women outnumber men among university graduates, their employment rates and earnings lag behind those of men. Gender differences reported in student performance, graduation rates, employment rates, and earnings highlight the challenge faced by many governments to create more equal opportunities for boys and girls on many fronts. Policies that can help promote gender equality include: better teaching practices that encourage girls to be interested in science and maths and boys to read more; affordable childcare to allow more women to work full-time; and investment in education that translates into more equal employment conditions.
A selection of indicators from PISA 2012 results: Low-performing students: Why they fall behind and how to help them succeed
About 13 million 15-year-old students in the 64 countries and economies that participated in the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) did not attain a baseline level of proficiency in at least one of three subjects: mathematics, reading and science. The share of low performers was 23% in mathematics and 18% in reading and science. Some 12% of students were low performers in all three subjects. Students who perform poorly at age 15 face a high risk of being trapped in a vicious cycle of poor performance and disengagement that may lead to school dropout with serious consequences for individuals and societies. The new PISA report describes how different risk factors, such as gender, having an immigrant background, a disadvantaged socio-economic profile, having repeated a grade, lacking pre-primary school or living in rural areas accumulate over the years to gather a perfect storm of low performance among young students. Lacking the knowledge and the skills to enter a labour market that values high-skilled workers, low-performing students are set on a road to compounded risk in adult life. The good news is that the path to low student achievement can be reversed. In fact, this is an effective way to improve an education system’s overall performance and equity .