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October 10, 2013

Spain sits near the bottom of OECD rankings on adult literacy and numeracy

Spain sits near the bottom of OECD rankings on adult literacy and numeracy

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Members of the OECD
Image: Canuckguy and Emuzesto.

Tuesday, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a 34 member international economic organization founded in 1961 that traces its origins back to the World War II-era Marshall Plan, published results on the state of adult skills in 24 countries, most of them European. Spain finished near the bottom of all surveyed countries when it came to adult literacy and numeracy.

Internationally, Spain ranks second to last amongst surveyed countries for literacy proficiency amongst adults. Only Italy has a lower literacy proficiency amongst adults. Spain, at 20.3%, has one of the highest percentages of their population at reading proficiency level 1. This means adults have a basic understanding of what they read, can fill out forms, and can understand the meaning of sentences. When below level 1 is added, the total comes to 27.5% of the population at the lowest reading proficiency level. Overall, Spain’s mean reading proficiency score puts them on par with Italy. Amongst young adults aged 16 to 24 years, Spain ranks second to last amongst surveyed countries, with a mean score comparable to Italy, England, and Northern Ireland, and Cyprus.

Spain ranks last amongst all surveyed countries in numeracy proficiency amongst adults aged 16 to 65 years. The country’s mean score is comparable to Italy. When only 16 to 24 year-olds are included, Spain’s overall relative performance increases by two spots, as a result of beating out Italy and the United States. The performance of this age group is comparable to Ireland, Italy, England and Northern Ireland. Individual performance on numeracy and literacy correlates highly in Spain at 0.887.

The percentage of adults who have completed university in Spain is slightly under the global average for people aged 25 to 34 years, and significantly below average for people aged 55 to 65 years. Spain finishes near the bottom of surveyed countries based on reading skills required at work. Only the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Italy require less use of reading skills at work.

In 2010, roughly 50% of people in Spain had access to the Internet. From 2005 to 2010, there was an increase from around 25% to around 35% in the number of individuals using the Internet to interact with government in Spain. In the same period, business interaction with governments in Spain increased from about 55% to about 65%. Spain’s percentage of foreign-born residents rose from around 3% in 1995 to about 14% in 2009.

The results are based on a survey of 166,000 adults from Australia, Austria, Flanders, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, England, Northern Ireland, the United States, Cyprus, and Russia. They survey was conducted from August 2011 to March 2012, with the exceptions of Canada where data was colected from November 2011 to June 2012, and France from September to November 2012.



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October 9, 2013

Japanese adults rank high in literacy and numeracy in OECD survey

Japanese adults rank high in literacy and numeracy in OECD survey

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Members of the OECD
Image: Canuckguy and Emuzesto.

Yesterday, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a 34 member international economic organization founded in 1961 that traces its origins back to the World War II-era Marshall Plan, published results on the state of adult skills in 24 countries, most of them European. Compared to other countries surveyed, Japan ranks as one of the best-performing surveyed countries in both literacy and numeracy.

Internationally, Japan ranks first amongst surveyed countries for literacy proficiency amongst adults. At the highest proficiency level, level 5, Japan is tied with Sweden and ranks as the fourth highest percentage of surveyed nations at 1.2%. Only Finland, at 2.2%, and Australia and the Netherlands, at 1.3%, are higher. Readers at this level synthesize text, compare and contrast ideas and points of view, and process information across multiple sources. Japan has one of the smallest percentages, at 4.3%, of their population at reading proficiency level 1. This means adults have a basic understanding of what they read, can fill out forms and can understanding the meaning of sentences. Amongst young adults aged 16 to 24 years, Japan ranks first amongst surveyed countries, with a mean score comparable to Finland.

Japan ranks first amongst all surveyed countries in numeracy proficiency amongst adults aged 16 to 65 years. When only people aged 16 to 24 years are looked at, Japan finishes third amongst surveyed nations with an average score comparable to Austria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, South Korea, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Sweden, and the Flanders region of Belgium.

The correlation between individual performance on numeracy and literacy tests in Japan of 0.846 is below the surveyed average of 0.867.

In proficiency at problem solving, Japan finishes tenth amongst surveyed nations. Adults were allowed to opt out of using computers for this test, and Japan had the third largest percentage at 15.9% opting to do so.

The Japanese data said adult literacy skills did not impact on social inequality, and that literacy is not a barrier to social mobility. This contrasts to other countries like the United States where literacy skills correlate to social mobility.

The percentage of adults who have completed university in Japan is above the global average, particularly for people aged 25 to 34 years. Japan is also below the global average in terms of the percentage of the population who have not finished high school. Japan finishes in the middle of surveyed countries based on reading skills required at work.

The results are based on a survey of 166,000 adults from Australia, Austria, Flanders, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, England, Northern Ireland, the United States, Cyprus, and Russia. They survey was conducted from August 2011 to March 2012, with the exceptions of Canada where data was collected from November 2011 to June 2012, and France from September to November 2012.



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September 29, 2013

Finnish female politicians highlighted by World Bank\’s 2012 gender report

Finnish female politicians highlighted by World Bank’s 2012 gender report

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Earlier this week the World Bank released the 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development. The report noted relatively high numbers of women participating in Finnish politics, and credited the Council for Equality between Men and Women in Finland with progress.

Pictured in 2003 during a state visit to Brazil, Tarja Halonen was Finland’s first lady President.
Image: Agência Brasil.

Finland bucks the global trend; the report notes globally “the number of women holding parliamentary seats is very low, and progress in the last 15 years has been slow.” Female representation in national parliaments has risen from 10% in 1995 to 17% in 2009. By contrast, Finnish female parliamentarians accounted for 38.5% of new members in 1991, rising to 42.5% in 2011. Finland was one of just nine nations whose total female cabinet members stood at more than 40% in 2008. Globally, females accounted for 17% of ministers, representing a rise from just 8% in 1998.

Although not specifically mentioned by the report, since the millennium the positions of President and Prime Minister have both been held by women; Tarja Halonen became the nation’s first female President in 2000 and in 2010 Mari Kiviniemi was selected to be the second female Prime Minister. Women gained suffrage in 1906 with little opposition, ahead of the US and UK.

Students at a maths lecture at the Helsinki University of Technology
Image: Tungsten.

The cross-party Council for Equality between Men and Women in Finland dates back to the 1970s; the World Bank dismisses its role at that time as “primarily symbolic” with little in the way of staff, funding, or influence. In the 1980s it was handed statutory power for gender equality issues and has gone on to press for reforms in areas including sex work, job training, and quotas on political representation. The report calls the council a “success”.

Education, however, showed gender segregation by subject at the tertiary level; Finland was one of several countries singled out as examples of high gender segregation in economically developed countries, compared to lower levels of segregation in less well-developed nations. Finland is one of the four members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development with the highest segregation by subject alongside Croatia, Japan, and Lithuania.

Finland has very high levels of education enrollment for both boys and girls, at almost 100% at primary level. Females are ahead of men in tertiary education enrollment, with 46% of men in the relevant age group enrolling in 1991 and 52% of women. By 2009 these numbers stood at 82% and 101% respectively.

Boys and girls were neck and neck with high scores in their 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment maths tests, both averaging around 540. Literacy also produced very high scores but with a gender gap; boys averaged around 510 while girls averaged around 560.

Internet access in Finland is high with men slightly ahead; for men and women alike access stands at around 85%. Finns have a legal right to a 1Mbps broadband connection and authorities plan to have 100Mbps connections for every citizen by 2015. The proportion of women teleworking at least 25% of the time has risen from around 7% in 2000–1 to 9% in 2005; the male figure was at 9% in 2005 and is now 15–20%. Rapid teleworking growth is a global trend but the report notes the female figures generally grew faster.

Marketplace activities also show gender disparity in Finland. Of activities performed by men and women, the female share stands at 41%, versus 63% for domestic activities such as housework. From 2006–9 services accounted for 87% of female and 56% of male employment. 10% of women and 37% of men were employed in industry and agriculture was only a minor employer, with 6% of male employment and 3% of female employment.

Life expectancy for Finnish men has risen from 71 years in 1990 to 77 years in 2009; in the same period, women’s life expectancy increased from 79 years to 83 years. The population stands at 5 million, representing a 0.4% annual growth rate from 2000 to 2010.



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October 4, 2007

Australian treasurer declares that he is \”a lot of fun\”

Australian treasurer declares that he is “a lot of fun”

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Thursday, October 4, 2007

Australia
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Australian Treasurer Peter Costello said today that he was “a lot of fun” while he was outlining his plans for Australia as a possible future Prime Minister.

During an interview with ABC Radio, Mr Costello was asked to say something about himself that the public didn’t know. Mr Costello’s replied “That I’m a lot of fun – a lot of fun and good company.”

Costello, who is considered current Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s likely successor when he retires, said he was not expecting an easy rise to the Prime Ministership, admitting that the forthcoming federal election would be difficult.

The treasurer said “If you read polls, then (Kevin) Rudd is in front and he’s already carrying on as if he’s got the election in the bag,”

“I would say an election is not over until all of the votes have been counted on the polling day, and I think it will be a hard-fought election.”

Mr Costello also outlined his vision for Australia should he become Prime Minister in the future centering his platform upon education and water.

“I think we need first, a first-class technical school system in this country, training people for trades,” Mr Costello said.

“I think we need improved standards of literacy in our primary and secondary schools and I think we need better facilities at the tertiary level.”

The treasurer admitted that education was one of his key priorities as he had been a university tutor and had a father who was a teacher. Speaking of his father, Costello said “I watched him influence generations of students,”

“I know the difference that a good school teacher makes in a person’s life and I believe in the importance of education.”

Mr Costello also said that Australia would need to carefully manage its water resources for the future.

“We have to manage our water better, we have to invest in water better, we have to harness water better, we have to price water better,” he said.

“I think we really do have a water crisis in this country and it’s something that we’re going to have to deal with in order to keep our country growing and our lifestyle up in the decades which lie ahead.” Mr Costello criticised state governments for failing to invest in water infrastructure and predicted desalination plants would have a major role to play in securing the nation’s water supply.

“There has not been enough investment in dams, there has not been enough investment in pipes, in irrigation canals and I think we’re going to have to look very, very carefully at desalination plants for our major capital cities,” said the Australian Treasurer.

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December 25, 2005

United States 2003 National Adult Literacy Survey released

United States 2003 National Adult Literacy Survey released

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Preliminary results from the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), released 15 December 2005 by the US National Center for Education Statistics, indicate gains and losses in literacy among minority adults between 1992 and 2003.

The nationally representative study among US adults age 16 and older found the over-all average prose and document literacy remained relatively unchanged, but quantitative literacy improved 8 points (on a scale of 500.) Results among minorities were mixed, with White and Asian/Pacific Islander minorities scoring significantly higher than Hispanic or Black ethnicities; Hispanic subjects in particular had sharp decreases in prose and document literacy (-9% and -8%, respectively) and quantitative illiteracy remained unchanged with 50% of subjects scoring at less than basic literacy levels.

The National Assessment of Adult Literacy is the most comprehensive measure of adult literacy in the USA. The 2003 NAAL, with 19 000 participants, was conducted by the Educational Testing Service, a non-governmental organization which charges for its services.

Understanding the results

The survey measured three types of literacy:

Prose Literacy
The knowledge and skills needed to perform prose tasks (i.e., to search, comprehend, and use information from continuous texts).
Document Literacy
The knowledge and skills needed to perform document tasks (i.e., to search, comprehend, and use information from noncontinuous texts in various formats).
Quantitative Literacy
The knowledge and skills needed to perform quantitative tasks (i.e., to identify and perform computations, either alone or sequentially, using numbers embedded in printed materials).

In each of these types of literacy the study categorized the subjects into four classes: below basic literacy, basic literacy, intermediate literacy, and proficient literacy. The break down of literacy was performed across a range of variables, such as ethnicity, gender, age, first language, education, and employment status.

Selected results

Some of the results were surprising, while others reflect continuing trends in the population.

High proficiency in reading continued to decline between 1992 and 2003 among White subjects, as well as among Hispanics—both down 1%—while Black subjects maintained their level and Asian/Pacific Islanders increased 3%. Across the ethnicities education level was a greater indicator of reading proficiently with 4.5% of high (secondary) school graduates reading at this level compared with 29% of college graduates and 36% of subjects in graduate studies/degrees.

An important difference between the 2003 survey and the 1992 survey was both in the make-up of the sample and in the inclusion of subjects who were unable to communicate in English or Spanish with the researchers. By ethnicity, the percentage of Black participants remained largely the same while the percentage of Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islanders grew significantly and the percentage of White participants was reduced. The instructions were made available in English and Spanish, although all testing material was exclusively in English, and 3% of participants who were unable to answer basic literacy screening questions took an alternative assessment. Even so, 2% of the subject group were unable to communicate with researchers at all in English or Spanish (this was down from 3% in 1992.)

Why are the tests carried out?

According to the National Centre for Education Statistics, the tests are carried out to measure America’s progress in the area of adult literacy. The results are made available to the general public, but are of most interest to researchers, practitioners and policymakers.

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September 10, 2005

Read Santa Clara marks tenth anniversary

Read Santa Clara marks tenth anniversary

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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Jennifer Sparacino, Santa Clara City Manager, third from left, and Santa Clara Mayor Patricia Mahan pose with Read Santa Clara staff, tutors, and learners. Photograph taken by Dvortygirl 10 September 2005, Santa Clara, California, USA.

Santa Clara, California, USA. The adult literacy program Read Santa Clara marked its tenth anniversary today with a gathering of program participants, staff, and supporters from the community. Read Santa Clara trains volunteer tutors and matches them with adult learners who wish to build their literacy skills.

In the presentation, program staff and supporters reviewed the program’s history and growth, honored long-time participants, and looked toward the future.

Santa Clara Mayor Patricia Mahan spoke at the gathering, noting, “Read Santa Clara joins people who need to learn with people who need to teach, and what a powerful combination that is.” She added, “I think adult literacy is so important.”

Program coordinators estimate that tutors volunteered some 5000 hours last year. City Manager Jennifer Sparacino estimates, “That’s worth about $100,000 per year in volunteer time.”

Learners also spoke about what Read Santa Clara meant to them. Raymond Moreno said, “I hope it stays for another ten, twenty, thirty years, because we need it.” Juan Velasquez said, “My life has changed a lot…I did many things I could not have done without help.” And Ike Moore said, “To be able to express myself…What a gift!”

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