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PIAAC - the International Survey of Adults Skills

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Last updated 02 November 2015 10:46 by NZTecAdmin

Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC)

New Zealand in PIAAC

PIAAC is the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, also known as The International Survey of Adult Skills.

New Zealand is in PIAAC Round Two and results were released on 29 June 2016 in New Zealand (28 June in Paris). The Ministry of Education's New Zealand PIAAC website is at http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/topics/research/piaac.


What is PIAAC?

PIAAC is an international study that measures the skills and competencies regarded as necessary for individuals of working age to participate in society and for economies to prosper: Reading Literacy, Numeracy and Problem Solving in Technology-Rich Environments. PIAAC is a collaboration between governments, an international consortium of organisations and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) - for more information, see www.oecd.org/site/piaac/


Latest PIAAC News (updated February 2017)

  • Get The Buzz about PIAAC on the PIAAC Gateway

The Buzz is a US-based newsletter with PIAAC-related stories from the USA and internationally. You can sign up to receive the PIAAC Buzz newsletter at http://piaacgateway.com/the-buzz/.

Buzz is on the PIAAC Gateway website http://piaacgateway.com/ which also has sections on News and Events, Outreach Tools, Data Tools, Publications, and Resources.



  • Examining Gender Differences in the Mathematical Literacy of 15-Year-Olds and the Numeracy Skills of the Age Cohorts as Adults by Alka Arora and Emily Pawlowski.  The authors combine international data from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and PIAAC to explore the progression of gender differences in mathematics skills from the 15-year-old students in PISA to the cohort of 23-25 years old young adults in PIAAC. Read the report at here.


PIAAC Round One

Twenty-four participating countries and regions assessed adults in PIAAC Round One in 2011–2012 and released results on 8 October 2013 (http://www.oecd.org/site/piaac/SkillsOutlook_2013_ebook.pdf).


Views from Abroad

Analyses of responses to PIAAC in various Round 1 countries are available on the Centre for Literacy of Quebec website http://www.centreforliteracy.qc.ca/news/early-analyses-responses-piaac.

Inez Bailey, the Director of Ireland's National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) has an interesting take on PIAAC's potential to influence change and the idea of a literacy and numeracy 'health check’ at https://www.nala.ie/content/inez-bailey-director-nala-piaacs-potential-influence-change.

PIAAC Online

Education & Skills Online,  the online version of PIAAC is available at http://www.oecd.org/skills/ESonline-assessment/

Education & Skills Online is described by the OECD as:

an assessment tool designed to provide individual-level results that are linked to the OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) measures of literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments. All results are comparable to the measures used in PIAAC and can be benchmarked against the national and international results available for the participating countries. In addition, the assessment contains non-cognitive measures of skill use, career interest, health and well-being, and behavioural competencies (forthcoming).

A leaflet describing the Education and Skills Online Assessment is available to download at:

Education and Skills Online Assessment Brochure

New reports using PIAAC data published by the OECD

Thematic Report on the effects of vocational education on adult skills and wages:

Brunello, G. & Rocco, L. (2015), “The effects of vocational education on adult skills and wages: What can we learn from PIAAC?”, OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers, No. 168, OECD Publishing, Paris. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5jrxfmjvw9bt-en.

New report on ‘field-of-study mismatch’ (i.e., when workers educated in a particular field work in another):

Montt, Guillermo (2015) The Causes and Consequences of Field-of-study Mismatch. An analysis using PIAAC. Paris: OECD Publishing. http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/social-issues-migration-health/the-causes-and-consequences-of-field-of-study-mismatch_5jrxm4dhv9r2-en

3rd PIAAC International Conference

 in Madrid, Spain, on 6-8 November 2016



Making the most of the PIAAC dataset

Professor Diana Coben, together with Ministry of Education colleagues David Earle, Chief Research Analyst, Tertiary Sector Performance Analysis, and Paul Satherley, Project Manager, Research Division, and Dr Barbara Miller-Reilly of the Mathematics Education Unit, University of Auckland, has investigated what secondary analysis of anonymised PIAAC data can tell us about adults’ numeracy practices.

We also reviewed the accessibility and user-friendliness of the PIAAC dataset and associated analytical tools - all freely available on the PIAAC website: http://www.oecd.org/site/piaac/publicdataandanalysis.htm.

Our aim is to encourage and equip adult literacy and numeracy practitioners (especially those who have not previously attempted anything of this sort) to use the PIAAC International Data Explorer (IDE) to make the most of this rich and freely available resource.

We presented our research at the 22nd Annual International Conference of Adults Learning Mathematics – A Research Forum (ALM22) in Washington DC, USA, in July 2015:

Coben, D., Miller-Reilly, B., Satherley, P., & Earle, D. (2015). Making the most of PIAAC: What can secondary analysis of PIAAC Numeracy data tell us about adults' numeracy practices?  Paper presented at the 22nd International Conference of Adults Learning Mathematics - A Research Forum (ALM22) ‘Opening Our Mathematical Eyes: Seeing math in everything we do’, 12-15 July, 2015 at the Hilton Mark Center, Alexandria, VA, USA.

This presentation is available here.

A paper based on the presentation has been submitted for publication in the free online journal, Adults Learning Mathematics – International Journal (ALMIJ) http://www.alm-online.net/alm-publications/alm-journal/ and the ALM22 Conference Proceedings (forthcoming at http://www.alm-online.net/alm-conference-proceedings/).

This research is part of the National Centre’s ongoing collaboration with the Ministry of Education (the lead government agency for PIAAC) in preparation for the release of New Zealand’s PIAAC results in 2016.

If you are interested in using the dataset to find out more about adults’ proficiencies and practices in adult literacy, numeracy and problem-solving in technology-rich environments (the PIAAC domains), the presentation - and the paper, when it becomes available - will give you some useful leads.


PIAAC is part of the OECD’s Skills Strategy: Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Lives

The Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) Skills Strategy website http://skills.oecd.org/ has links to reports and other resources, including a video, Country Snapshots.

This key report sets out the OECD’s strategic approach to skills policies.

OECD (2012), Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Lives: A Strategic Approach to Skills Policies, Paris: OECD Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264177338-en (PDF)

See also The World Indicators of Skills for Employment (WISE) database http://www.oecd.org/employment/skills-for-employment-indicators.htm and the International Labour Organisation’s Skills for Employment Knowledge Sharing Platform



Looking Forward to Exploring PIAAC Data on Māori Adult Literacy and Numeracy in Aotearoa New Zealand – presentation in Canada

A presentation entitled ‘Looking Forward to Exploring PIAAC Data on Māori Adult Literacy and Numeracy in Aotearoa New Zealand’ presented at the Centre for Literacy of Quebec’s Summer Institute 2014, is available on vimeo http://www.centreforliteracy.qc.ca/node/2051.

The vimeo shows Christy Bresette, Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, and member of the team writing the aboriginal report on PIAAC for Canada, presenting slides http://www.centreforliteracy.qc.ca/sites/default/files/NZMaori_ENG%20.pdf focusing on the possible uses of PIAAC data to identify and meet the needs of Maori in Aotearoa New Zealand, while cautioning how misuse of data from previous research has harmed Aboriginal peoples. The presentation suggested some potential areas of common interest between Canada and New Zealand.

The slides were prepared by Professor Diana Coben, National Centre of Literacy and Numeracy for Adults, and David Earle, Ministry of Education, New Zealand.


PIAAC at the 2016 Symposium

Guest speaker William Thorn, Senior Analyst in the Education Directorate of the OECD, led a Plenary Session on 'New Zealand in the International Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC)’ at the 2016 Symposium in Te Papa, Wellington.


In addition, a Symposium workshop on ‘Using PIAAC to inform your work’  demonstrated the use of free anonymised PIAAC data available online to help colleagues to access, understand and use the data to inform your work.


PIAAC Webinar  The Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC): be informed,be equipped, be able

Click here for a recording of the ’Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC)' webinar held on Thursday 8 September, International Literacy Day 2016.

The webinar is introduced by the National Centre’s Director, Professor Diana Coben, and features David Earle, Chief Research Analyst, Tertiary Sector Performance Analysis, Ministry of Education, talking about the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) in New Zealand, and answering questions from participants.


More PIAAC reports

Two new reports are highlighted here:

Grotlűschen, A., Mallow, D., Reder, S., & Sabatini, J. (2016). Adults with Low Proficiency in Literacy and Numeracy OECD Education Working Papers No.131. Paris: OECD Publishing, Paris. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5jm0v44bnmnx-en. This paper offers a comprehensive analysis of the information from the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) regarding adults with low literacy and numeracy proficiency. For most outcomes, levels of engagement in literacy practices appear to be as strong predictors as proficiency, indicating the importance of encouraging more intense use of these skills both in and outside of work. The unique data from the Survey of Adult Skills regarding performance on the simple reading tasks (the so called “reading components”) is also analysed. Adults with low proficiency are found to be able to easily recognise commonly used words in printed form but often have difficulty with processing the logic of sentences and reading extended passages for basic meaning. Adults with low proficiency are considerably less likely than their more proficient peers to participate in formal or non-formal adult education or training programmes, which is mostly due to the socio-demographic and employment characteristics of this population. However, the lower participation rates among the low proficient adults does not appear to be a consequence of their lack of motivation as much as of the presence of various obstacles to participation, such as lack of time and the cost of training.

Rampey, B. D., Finnegan, R., Goodman, M., Mohadjer, L., Krenzke, T., Hogan, J., Provasnik, S. & Xie, H. (2016) Skills of U.S. Unemployed, Young, and Older Adults in Sharper Focus: Results From the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) 2012/2014 First Look. Washington DC: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education. http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2016/2016039.pdf. The report includes updated international comparisons as well as new results for three subgroups of interest in the United States: the unemployed, young adults, and older adults. Go to http://us7.campaign-archive2.com/?u=d594c8ec6a0ea81ef5da0c3f4&id=540ed76de1&e=16133b9087 for more information.


The  PIAAC Results Portal

http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/piaac/results/makeselections.aspx allows you to browse figures and tables that compare the performance of adults in participating countries.


OECD's Skills Surveys Facebook page



Review of the PIAAC Numeracy Assessment Framework

Professor Diana Coben is a member of the international team brought together by the Australian Council for Education Research (ACER) to undertake a review of the PIAAC Numeracy Assessment Framework for the OECD.


Watch this space

Information and updates about PIAAC will be published periodically on this site.



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