Comparing literacy skills of adults around the world through PIAAC

The Challenge 

Do adults have the literacy and problem-solving skills they need to successfully participate in 21st-century society? Are their skills improving, declining, or staying the same? How do skill levels compare among different countries?

The Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) is a cyclical, large-scale study of adult skills and life experiences designed to answer these questions and focuses on education and employment. Nationally representative samples of adults between the ages of 16 and 65 are administered an assessment of literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments, as well as survey questions about their educational background, work history, the skills they use on the job and at home, their civic engagement, and sense of their health and well-being.

Our Solutions 

  • With our international colleagues at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Westat developed the PIAAC technical standards and guidelines and training materials for sampling, field operations, and more.
  • Westat field-tested and conducted the 2012 U.S. study in which more than 5,000 participants completed the interview and assessment.
  • The U.S. National Supplement is the second U.S. data collection conducted in 2014 in which more than 3,600 adults were surveyed from 3 key subgroups: unemployed adults, young adults (age 16 to 34), and older adults (age 66 to 74). In addition, about 1,300 adult inmates detained in federal and state prisons were interviewed and assessed.
  • During 2017, we will conduct a third round of data collection in the U.S. The PIAAC 2017 National Supplement will include a nationally representative sample of about 3,800 new adults (age 16 to 74).

The Results 

Our Client 

National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)