Publications

The Adult Literacy and Life Skills (ALL) Survey: Overview and International Comparisons

Publication Details

This report is the first in a series of four that investigate the initial results of the ALL survey. It examines any changes in literacy and numeracy skill between the 1996 International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) and the Adult Literacy and Life Skills (ALL) survey - results collected in New Zealand in 2006. It also compares the results from the New Zealand ALL survey with those from Australia, Canada and the USA.

Author(s): Paul Satherley, Elliot Lawes and Saila Sok, Research Division, Ministry of Education.

Date Published: March 2008

Please consider the environment before printing the contents of this report. This report is available as a download (please refer to the 'Downloads/Links' inset box, top right).
Please consider the environment before printing the contents of this report.

Executive Summary

The Adult Literacy and Life Skills (ALL) survey is designed to answer these and other questions:

  • How is literacy skill distributed across the New Zealand adult population?

  • Has there been any change in this distribution over the past 10 years?

  • Do the further education and training activities of New Zealand adults vary according to their literacy skills?

  • How do the skills of adults in New Zealand compare with those of adults from other countries?

Why do we need to answer these questions? The labour-force demands of a modern economy are becoming increasingly complex. If New Zealand is to improve or maintain its position in the world economy, it must develop a workforce with high levels of generic and technical skills. The ALL survey provides an insight into our current skill levels. This insight is essential for the development of any future initiatives to further enhance and maintain these levels. In the longer term, having both the ALL data and data from the 1996 International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) gives us a baseline against which to measure change in levels of skills in the New Zealand population.

This report is the first in a series of four that investigates the initial results of the ALL survey. It will present an overview of the distribution of literacy skills in New Zealand, changes to that distribution since 1996, and a comparison of New Zealand’s distribution of literacy skills with those of Canada, the USA and Australia.

Key findings

  • From 1996 to 2006 the proportion of the adult population of New Zealand with very low literacy skills reduced substantially, but a proportion with low literacy skills persists.
  • Similar changes have occurred in Canada, the USA and Australia.
  • In New Zealand, the improvement in document literacy skill has been more pronounced than in Canada, the USA and Australia.
  • The adult population of New Zealand has large subpopulations with low numeracy and low problem-solving skills.
  • The adult populations of Canada, the USA and Australia also have large sub-populations with low numeracy skills. In addition, Canada and Australia have large subpopulations with low problem-solving skills1.
  • New Zealand adults with low document literacy skills are less likely to participate in any up-skilling activities than those with higher document literacy skills. However, participation in formal up-skilling does not appear to be affected by adults’ document literacy skills.
  • The patterns of up-skilling in New Zealand differ from Canada and the USA, where participation in formal up-skilling was greater amongst those with higher document literacy skills.
  • In New Zealand, established immigrants have higher literacy and numeracy skills, overall, than recent immigrants. Established immigrants also make up a larger proportion of the adult population than recent immigrants.
  • By contrast, in Canada and the USA, recent immigrants have higher literacy and numeracy skills, overall, than established immigrants. There also, established immigrants make up a larger proportion of the adult population than recent immigrants.
  • In New Zealand, immigrants (both recent and established) have higher levels of prose and numeracy skills than both recent and established immigrants in Canada and the USA.

Publications

Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey Releases

pubID-17826-cover

The ALL Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALL): An Introduction
Indicator Icon   The Adult Literacy and Life Skills (ALL) Survey: An Introduction

This publication is intended as an introduction to the ALL survey. It explains the nature of the ALL survey, its application and how the ALL survey results will be presented. It contains none of the ALL survey results.

Author: Paul Satherley and Elliot Lawes, Research Division, Ministry of Education
Date Published: September 2007


pubID-16731-cover

The ALL Adult Literacy and Life Skills (ALL) Survey: Headline Results and Background
Indicator Icon   Fact Sheet: The Adult Literacy and Life Skills (ALL) Survey: Headline Results and Background

This fact sheet provides the first headline results of the Adult Literacy and Life Skills (ALL) Survey together with some background information.

Author: Research Division, Ministry of Education
Date Published: December 2007



pubID-16746-cover

The Adult Literacy and Life Skills (ALL) Survey: Further Investigation
Indicator Icon   Fact Sheet: The Adult Literacy and Life Skills (ALL) Survey: Further Investigation

This fact sheet provides further headline results describing how numeracy and document literacy are distributed through subpopulations of the New Zealand adult population.

Author: Research Division, Ministry of Education
Date Published: December 2007


pubID-19491-cover

The ALL Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALL): Overview and International Comparisons
Indicator Icon   The Adult Literacy and Life Skills (ALL) Survey: Overview and International Comparisons

This report is the first in a series of four that investigate the initial results of the ALL survey. It examines any changes in literacy and numeracy skill between the 1996 International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) and the Adult Literacy and Life Skills (ALL) survey.

Author: Paul Satherley, Elliot Lawes and Saila Sok, Research Division, Ministry of Education
Date Published: March 2008


pubID-33225-cover

The ALL Adult Literacy and Life Skills (ALL) Survey: Education, Work and Literacy
Indicator Icon   The Adult Literacy and Life Skills (ALL) Survey: Education, Work and Literacy

This report is the second in a series of four  and presents an overview of New Zealanders’ skills in relation to educational and labour force characteristics. It compares the results from the 1996 International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) with results from the 2006 ALL survey.

Author: Paul Satherley, Elliot Lawes and Saila Sok, Research Division, Ministry of Education
Date Published: May 2008 (Revised April 2009)



pubID-29875-cover

The Adult Literacy and Life Skills (ALL) Survey: Gender, Ethnicity and Literacy
Indicator Icon   The Adult Literacy and Life Skills (ALL) Survey: Gender, Ethnicity and Literacy

This report is the third in a series of four that investigate the initial results of the ALL survey. It presents an overview of New Zealanders’ skills in relation to gender and ethnicity, and any changes since 1996.

Author: Paul Satherley and Elliot Lawes, Research Division, Ministry of Education
Date Published: September 2008


pubID-29946-cover

The ALL Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALL): Age and Literacy
Indicator Icon   The Adult Literacy and Life Skills (ALL) Survey: Age and Literacy

This report is the fourth in a series of four that investigate the initial results of the ALL survey. It presents an overview of New Zealanders’ skills in relation to age, and any changes since 1996.

Author: Paul Satherley and Elliot Lawes, Research Division, Ministry of Education
Date Published: August 2008



pubID-32250-cover

Profile & Trends 2007: New Zealand's Tertiary Education Sector
Indicator Icon   Short Article: The Educational Inheritance of New Zealanders

This short article contained in Profile & Trends 2007 covers a range of questions on education inheritance including: 'How much does parents' education level influence that of their children?'

Author: Tertiary Sector Performance Analysis & Reporting, Ministry of Education
Date Published: November 2008



pubID-32250-cover

Profile & Trends 2007: New Zealand's Tertiary Education Sector
Indicator Icon   Short Article: Higher-level education is strongly associated with greater skills

This short article contained in Profile & Trends 2007 explores higher level education and how strongly it is associated with greater skills.

Author: Tertiary Sector Performance Analysis & Reporting, Ministry of Education
Date Published: November 2008


pubID-32250-cover

Profile & Trends 2007: New Zealand's Tertiary Education Sector
Indicator Icon    Short Article: Healthy and Wise – Does Education Improve Wellbeing?

This short article contained in Profile & Trends 2007 used the results of the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey to analyse the relationship between New Zealanders' education level and their assessment of their own wellbeing.

Author: Elliot Lawes and Ian Schagen, Research Division, Ministry of Education
Date Published: November 2008



pubID-32250-cover

Profile & Trends 2007: New Zealand's Tertiary Education Sector
Indicator Icon   Short Article: Literacy and Numeracy in New Zealand: Findings from the ALL Survey

This short article contained in Profile & Trends 2007 summarises the first findings from the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey.

Author: Tertiary Sector Performance Analysis & Reporting, Ministry of Education
Date Published: November 2008



pubID-36000-cover

Well-being and Education
Indicator Icon  Fact Sheet: Well-being and Education

This fact sheet is the first of two that provides a short analysis from the 2006 ALL survey.  It looks at the extent to which educational qualifications can be used to predict literacy and numeracy levels.

Author: Research Division & Tertiary Sector Performance Analysis & Reporting, Ministry of Education
Date Published: March 2009


pubID-36000-cover

How well do Qualifications Predict Literacy and Numeracy?
Indicator Icon   Fact Sheet: How well do qualifications predict literacy and numeracy?

This fact sheet is the second of two that provides a short analysis from the 2006 ALL survey.  It looks at the relationship between New Zealanders' education level and their assessment of their well-being.

Author: Research Division & Tertiary Sector Performance Analysis & Reporting, Ministry of Education
Date Published: March 2009


Footnotes

  1. Problem-solving was not measured in the USA.


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