Topics

Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC)
International Survey of Adult Skills (ISAS)

Summary

This is the home page for the ISAS or PIAAC Survey. See below for information about ISAS/PIAAC or follow one of the links to view information about adult skills.

New Zealand is participating in the OECD's Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies survey (PIAAC). In New Zealand, PIAAC is operated under the field name International Survey of Adult Skills (ISAS).  

Internationally, PIAAC 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, PIAAC assesses literacy and numeracy skills, and ability to solve problems in technology-rich environments. PIAAC 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, is participating in a second round of PIAAC. This follows a first round in 25 countries whose results were published in October 2013. A third round is also proposed.

In New Zealand ISAS data collection is taking place April – December 2014, and results will be published in May 2016. A field trial was held in April – September 2013.

What is the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC)?

PIAAC:

  • 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 two rounds.  Round 1 results from 25 countries were published on 8 October 2013 and round 2 results, including New Zealand's, will be published in May 2016
  • 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 is 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. 

PIAAC builds on previous international surveys of adult skills, allowing literacy levels to be compared over a 13-18 year period for some countries. PIAAC 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.

ISAS/PIAAC in New Zealand

  • PIAAC in New Zealand is operated under the field name International Survey of Adult Skills (ISAS).
  • The Ministry of Education has contracted the National Research Bureau (NRB) to undertake ISAS data collection. You can visit the ISAS webpage on the NRB site.
  • Data was collected for the ISAS field test across New Zealand from April – September 2013. The purpose of the field test was to trial the methods and the assessment, in order to confirm that they work in the same way in New Zealand as internationally.
  • The ISAS main survey data collection is taking place April – December 2014. NRB has selected a representative sample of 16-65 year olds who are New Zealand usual residents. This sample includes 'oversamples' of the Maori, Pasifika and 16-25 year old populations in order to provide the scope for more indepth analysis for these groups.
  • An ISAS interview contains the following elements:      
    • A background questionnaire that collects information on education, work, use of skills at work and in everyday life, languages spoken and socio-demographic information. The background questionnaire is administered face-to-face by an interviewer who enters the answers into a laptop computer.
    • A skill assessment which is undertaken by the respondent on the laptop. Some respondents will be provided with paper assessment booklets instead. Test items cover a wide range of difficulty and measure skill in three skill domains: literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology rich environments.
  • The first ISAS results for New Zealand will be published in May 2016, at the same time as the other round 2 PIAAC countries. These publications are planned to also include round 1 PIAAC countries' results.
  • As for earlier skill surveys, results will include:      
    • average scores on each skill domain for countries and for population subgroups
    • comparisons over time and with other countries
    • proportions of different sub-populations reaching different benchmarks for each skill domain.

Which other countries are participating in PIAAC with New Zealand?

The following countries undertook PIAAC 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, United States.

The following countries are planning to take part in round 2 at the same time as New Zealand: Chile, Greece, Indonesia, Israel, Lithuania, Singapore, Slovenia, and Turkey. 

Further information

International Adult Literacy Survey and Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey

New Zealand participated in two earlier international surveys of adult skills: the 1996 International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) and the 2006 Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALL). See New Zealand IALS and ALL findings, and links to international findings.

International sites on adult skills

The OECD's PIAAC webpage contains the findings from round 1, as well as a wide range of documentation on progress with PIAAC.

The OECD's website contains other material on adult skills. Either browse by topic (Education) or search using the phrase Adult Literacy. 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. These can be found either by browsing by topic (Research -> Research Topics -> Adult Literacy) or by searching using the phrase "literacy" or "PIAAC".

The German Institute for International Educational Research (DIPF) provides information about the PIAAC assessment platform.  See the DIPF's English language site under Projects -> PIAAC. ETS and DIPF are PIAAC consortium members.

On this page

What is PIAAC
ISAS/PIAAC in NZ
Other Countries Participating
Further Information

Contact Us

For queries about PIAAC/ISAS please contact:

Paul Satherley
Project Manager
Research Division
Ministry of Education
PO Box 1666
Thorndon, Wellington 6140
New Zealand

Phone: +64 4 463-2893
Fax:   +64 4 463-8312
Email: paul.satherley@minedu.govt.nz

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