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Dublin: 9 °C Saturday 6 June, 2020

Literacy levels in Irish adults slightly below average

New international survey finds Ireland is one of only five countries to reduce the proportion of adults with lower literacy skills.

Adult reading
Adult reading

IRELAND’S LITERACY LEVELS are progressing, according to a new international OECD Skills Outlook survey.

However, the results of the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies survey (PIAAC), the first international survey of its kind amongst adults aged between 16 and 65, found that fewer Irish people are in the lowest bracket of literacy.

Irish adults were found to be slightly below the survey average in literacy, with the results placing Ireland 17 out of 24 on the list.

The survey shows Irish adults scoring in the lower range of literacy has fallen by 4 per cent. This is in comparison to the last major review undertaken in Ireland in the 1990s.


Ireland is one of only five countries that has reduced the proportion of adults scoring at these low levels.

Of all the countries that were included in the survey, on average, 16.7 per cent of adults score at or below Level 1 for literacy proficiency – the lowest grade of literacy.

Ireland has 17.9 per cent of adults at this level, giving a rank of 15 out of 24 countries.

Ireland’s numeracy skills is also below average, which the Department of Education says echoes the findings of previous international research which was the basis for establishing such initiatives as the Project Maths syllabus in schools.

The survey, which had almost 6,000 adults respondents from Ireland, is published a week after the Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn published a review of adult literacy provision.

The review made recommendations on how to further develop and meet the current and future literacy needs of learners, employers and the government.

Making progress

Speaking about the OECD results he said he was “encouraged that the survey shows Ireland is making progress on reducing the number of adults with low literacy levels,” but said:

Our overall performance on literacy, but particularly numeracy, is not as strong as I would have liked.  We must drive forward the implementation of the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy in our schools and focus strongly on literacy, numeracy and ICT in lifelong learning…

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