Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC)
New Zealand has participated in the OECD's Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC). This is part of the OECD's Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies survey (PIAAC). Internationally, it is the most comprehensive survey of adult skills ever undertaken. Through interviews with a representative sample of respondents aged 16-65 in each participating country, it assesses literacy and numeracy skills and ability to solve problems in technology-rich environments. It builds on previous international surveys of adult skills, allowing literacy levels to be compared over a 13-17 year period for some countries.
New Zealand, together with 8 other countries, participated in a second round. This follows a first round in 25 countries whose results were published in October 2013. A third round has also begun.
The New Zealand data collection took place in April 2014–February 2015, and results were published on 28 June 2016.
What is the Survey of Adult Skills?
The Survey of Adult Skills:
- is the most comprehensive international survey of adult skills ever undertaken.
- is a collaboration between governments, an international consortium of organisations and the OECD.
- takes place across OECD and partner countries in three rounds. Round 1 results from 25 countries were published on 8 October 2013 and round 2 results, including New Zealand's, were published on 28 June 2016. Round 3 results are planned for 2019.
- measures the skills and competencies needed for individuals to participate in society and for economies to prosper.
- helps governments better understand how education and training systems can nurture these skills.
The survey was carried out by:
- interviewing adults aged 16-65 years in their homes – at least 5,000 in each participating country.
- assessing literacy and numeracy skills, and ability to solve problems in technology-rich environments.
- collecting a broad range of information from the adults taking the survey, including education background, how their skills are used at work and in other contexts such as the home and the community.
The information from individual respondents is strictly confidential. Published results are for groups of people where individuals cannot be identified.
The Survey of Adult Skills builds on previous international surveys of adult skills, allowing literacy levels to be compared over a 13-17 year period for some countries. It breaks new ground by:
- expanding the range of skills being measured.
- introducing a self-reported measure of the use of skills at work.
- using computers to administer this kind of international assessment.
The Survey of Adult Skills in New Zealand
- The Ministry of Education contracted the National Research Bureau (NRB) to undertake the data collection for the Survey of Adult Skills, which took place April 2014–February 2015. NRB selected a representative sample of 16-65 year olds who were New Zealand usual residents. This sample included 'oversamples' of Māori, and of the 16-25 year old population in order to provide the scope for more indepth analysis for these groups.
- The interviews contained the following elements:
- A background questionnaire that collected information on education, work, use of skills at work and in everyday life, languages spoken and socio-demographic information. The background questionnaire was administered face-to-face by an interviewer who entered the answers into a laptop computer.
- A skill assessment which was undertaken by the respondent on the laptop. Some respondents were provided with paper assessment booklets instead. Test items covered a wide range of difficulty and measured skill in three skill domains: literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology rich environments.
- From 28 June 2016, when the OECD released its international report including round 1 and round 2 countries the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) will begin our own New Zealand focused reporting programme.
- The first three New Zealand reports are
- Skills in New Zealand and around the world
- Skills and Work
- Skills and Education.
The Ministry of Education and MBIE released these reports on 28 June 2016 at the same time as the OECD's international report. The New Zealand Reports are available on the Survey of Adult Skills publication series page and the OECD reports are available from the OECD's website.
Which other countries participated in the Survey of Adult Skills?
The following countries undertook the Survey of Adult Skills in round 1: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russian Federation, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the United States.
The following countries are took part in round 2 at the same time as New Zealand: Chile, Greece, Indonesia, Israel, Lithuania, Singapore, Slovenia, and Turkey.
Round 3 countries are the United States, (repeating the Survey of Adult Skills from round 1), Argentina, Columbia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Mexico, and Peru.
International sites of interest
The OECD's website contains other material on adult skills. The OECD Skills Strategy is a key document.
The website of the United States based organisation, Educational Testing Service (ETS) has a range of publications on adult skills.
The German Institute for International Education Research provides informaiton about the Survey of Adult Skills assessment platform. ETS and DIPF are consortium members.
Where to find out more
Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC)
For queries about the Survey of Adult Skills please contact:
Principal Research Analyst
Ministry of Education
P O Box 1666, Thorndon