The Adult Literacy and Life Skills (ALL) Survey: Numeracy skills and education in New Zealand and Australia

Publication Details

This report provides an initial investigation into the relationships between education level, numeracy, participation in up-skilling and self-assessed numeracy through the adult populations of New Zealand and Australia.

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

Date Published: August 2009

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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 1: Key Findings

New Zealand and Australia had similar distributions of numeracy skill. However, for each reported education level, Australian adults performed better – on average – than their New Zealand counterparts. These apparently contradictory statements can be reconciled by the fact that Australia had relatively more adults with lower secondary or less education – the group that, in both countries, had the lowest numeracy skills.

New Zealand and Australia had broadly similar distributions of participation in up-skilling. In both countries, proportions of participation in up-skilling activities are highest amongst those with a tertiary level education and lowest amongst those with a lower secondary level education or less. That is, those adults who were best equipped to engage with the knowledge economy and society were those who were most likely to try to improve this level of engagement by up-skilling.

After controlling for non-participation in up-skilling activities, and in both countries, those with upper secondary education level or less were most likely to participate in self-directed up-skilling activities. In New Zealand, those with tertiary education were most likely to participate in self-directed up-skilling activities whereas their Australian counterparts were most likely to participate in non-formal up-skilling activities.

In both New Zealand and in Australia, just under 40% of adults assessed themselves as having higher numeracy skills when, in fact, they were measured as having low numeracy skills. For both countries this percentage was lower for those with higher education levels.

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