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New Zealand fourth in OECD for adult literacy


Hon Steven Joyce

Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment

28 June 2016
Media Statement

New Zealand fourth in OECD for adult literacy

New Zealand’s ranking in adult literacy has improved significantly to fourth in the OECD from 12th in 1996 says Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce.

The Survey of Adult Skills, released today, shows Japan first in adult literacy followed by Finland, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

“These results are great news for our economy and our society. Our workforce needs world class skills and knowledge that will boost the productivity of the New Zealand economy. A more highly skilled, highly qualified workforce is essential and that must include good literacy skills across the board,” says Mr Joyce.

“The progress we have made is a real tribute to the adult educators and all those involved in improving literacy in New Zealand.”

New Zealand is also amongst the world leaders in problem solving using technology – a skill that’s been tested for the first time in the OECD survey.

“We rank fifth for this important skill and have the highest proportion of adults with moderate to high problem solving skills using computers. These are skills increasingly called for in today’s working environments.”

Adult numeracy skills have remained steady since 2006 and New Zealand is ranked 13th in the OECD, ahead of Australia, Canada and Singapore and the OECD average.

The survey results follow years of intensive focus by the Government on improving adult literacy and numeracy, particularly in the workplace.

“The numbers of adults accessing help with their literacy and numeracy has quadrupled between 2010 and 2013 from 36,200 to 175,000. We’re also seeing earlier identification of problems with literacy and numeracy through use of the adult literacy and numeracy assessment tool,”

In 2015 alone, the Government invested $248 million into tertiary courses with literacy and numeracy embedded within other subjects. Another $48.5 million is available for courses specifically for adult learners to improve their literacy and numeracy and/or learn English.

Literacy and numeracy received a further boost in Budget 2016. $14.6 million will be provided over four years so that foundation education at Levels 1 and 2 on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF) is completely fees-free (these courses always include literacy and numeracy). Another $11 million is being provided for 600 more places for the Workplace Literacy and Numeracy Programme and around 900 places more places from 2017 onwards compared with 2015.

“The results show that our system is on the right track. In the years ahead we will focus particularly on lifting numeracy skills further, while seeking to maintain our strong performance in literacy and problem-solving”

ends

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