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Monday 24 June 2019

One in five Irish adults have problems reading instructions on ATM machines or understanding information on groceries

Almost one in five – 18pc - of Irish 16-65 year-olds have difficulty with simple literacy tasks
Almost one in five – 18pc - of Irish 16-65 year-olds have difficulty with simple literacy tasks

IRISH adults score below the international average in reading, maths and digital literacy skills, according to a major new report out today.

Almost one in five – 18pc - of Irish 16-65 year-olds have difficulty with simple literacy tasks such as reading labels, information on supermarket packaging or the instructions on an ATM machine.

While it is an improvement on the 22pc figure in a similar survey in the 1990s, slightly below the average of  17pc found in a 24-country Survey of Adult Skills  published today by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

When it comes to numeracy skills, Ireland performs significantly below the international average - both for those at the lower and upper end of the maths proficiency scale.

Just over 25pc of Irish adults score at the lowest level for numeracy, against an international average of 20pc.  Meanwhile, 36pc of Irish adults perform at the upper end, much lower than the average 47pc.

Irish adults also compare unfavourably with the rest of the developed world in terms of technology skills, with only 25pc performing at the upper end , compared with an international average of 34pc.

The proportion of Irish adults deemed to have lower digital literacy skills was broadly yin line with the international average

The study, officially known as Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC),  is the most comprehensive survey ever of  literacy – both traditional and digital - and numeracy skills among adults. and involved almost 6,000 16-65 year olds in Ireland.

It has been called “PISA for grown-ups”, a reference to the more famliar OECD PISA survey on the performance of 15 year olds in reading and maths, which runs in three-yearly cycles.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn  admitted that Ireland’s overall performance on literacy , and particularly numeracy, was “not as strong as I would have liked”.

National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) director  Inez Bailey described the results as disappointing and said  the report was a “wake up call”

She said people needed to attain and improve skills for the workplace and for everyday living, whether it was to be  a savvy consumer and able to compare prices, or  more complex tasks such as making decisions about investments or pension.

*The full PIAAC 2012 report is available on the CSO web site:

PIAAC 2012 Survey Results for Ireland

The OECD international report is available here:

Katherine Donnelly Education Editor

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