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

Publication Details

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

Date Published: August 2008

Please consider the environment before printing the contents of this report.

This report is available as a download (please refer to the 'Downloads' inset box).  To view the individual chapters please refer to the 'Sections' inset box.  For links to related publications/ information that may be of interest please refer to the 'Where to Find Out More' inset box.

Section 6: Glossary

The Adult Literacy and Life Skills survey, which was conducted by 12 countries between 2003 and 2008/09 (note that at the beginning of 2008 three of these countries had still to complete their participation in ALL).
Document Literacy
The ability to read and understand discontinuous texts (such as charts, maps, tables, job applications, payroll forms and timetables).
The International Adult Literacy Survey, which was conducted by 23 countries/regions between 1994 and 1998.
Higher Literacy or Numeracy:
Levels 3, 4 or 5.
Prose literacy, document literacy and numeracy are assigned five cognitive levels:
  • Level 1:
    Read simple documents, accomplish literal information matching with no distracting information, and perform simple one-step calculations.
  • Level 2:
    Search a document and filter out some simple distracting information, make low-leve inferences, and execute one-or two-step calculations and estimations.
  • Level 3:
    Perform more complex information filtering, sometimes requiring inferences, and manipulate mathematical symbols, perhaps in several stages.
  • Level 4:
    Integrate information from a long passage, perform more complex inferences and complete multiple-step calculations requiring some reasoning.
  • Level 5:
    Make high-level inferences or syntheses, use specialised knowledge, filter out multiple distractors, and understand and use abstract mathematical ideas with justification.
Low Literacy or Numeracy
Levels 1 or 2.
In general, the mean of a set of scores is the sum of the scores divided by the number of scores.
The ability to read and process mathematical and numeric information in diverse situations.
The ability to reason and think analytically in situations where no routine procedure exists. Problem-solving has been assigned four cognitive levels. For a description of typical tasks for the problem-solving domain (and a fuller description of prose and document literacy along with numeracy), see pages 17 and 18 of Learning a Living: First Results of the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey.
Prose Literacy
Is concerned with continuous text, of the type found in books and newspaper articles.
Undertaking further education and training:
  • Formal:
    Participation in any course that is part of a programme of study leading toward a certificate, degree or diploma.
  • Non-formal:
    Participation in any course that is not part of a programme of study leading toward a certificate, degree or diploma.
  • Self-directed or none:
    Either no participation in any up-skilling activities or participation in up-skilling activities such as guided tours, trade fairs, learning from instructional media, etc.
Very High Literacy or Numeracy
Level 4 or 5.
Very Low Literacy or Numeracy
Level 1.

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