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New comparative Nordic research measures adult competencies

| Text: Berit Kvam

For the first time ever there is a Nordic version of the OECD’s Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, PIAAC. PIAAC was first published in 2013. The survey comprises comparative data from 24 countries.

The individual countries also publish their own national reports. During work on the latest survey, the Nordic participants decided to create their own network and their own Nordic analysis. The results from that Nordic cooperation have now been published. The Nordic countries enjoy access to different forms of data which has allowed them to expand the survey by adding these to the usual surveys and interviews.

The Nordic survey uses data from Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Estonia. Iceland has not taken part in the OECD survey and as a result is not part of the Nordic cooperation either. The same goes from the autonomous areas of Greenland and the Faroe Islands (Denmark) and Åland (Finland). 

The closer cooperation between the five countries started as early as in 2009 on the sidelines of the international PIAAC meetings. The idea was to share experiences and information and to support each other in the execution of PIAAC, the work on the national reports and the implementation of the results. In 2010 the national heads of project for PIAAC in the Nordic region created a network and applied for funds to produce a comparative Nordic report. The result is a unique Nordic database where Nordic survey data has been combined with data on social, educational and labour conditions in the five countries.

The Nordic network has developed technical guidelines for researchers who want to make use of the data gathered.

Nordic PIAAC looks at the basic skills in the countries’ populations when it comes to literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology rich environments among adults aged 16 to 65. These basic skills are necessary in many social contexts, in working life and in social and everyday life. This is also necessary basic knowledge for the development of a society, the report authors say.

The Nordic survey includes Estonia in addition to the Nordic countries Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. This influences the image of ‘the Nordic region’ somewhat since the Nordic countries are similar to each while Estonia stands out in certain contexts. 

The skills tested include literacy; the ability to understand, evaluate, use and engage in a written test in order to participate in society, achieve the goals and develop your own potential. 

Numeracy; the ability to receive, use, understand and communicate mathematical information and ideas and to be able to handle situations involving numeracy which any adult will face in different life situations. 

Problem solving in technological environments; the ability to use digital technology, communication tools and networks in order to receive and evaluate information, communicate with others and solve practical tasks.

The researchers see a strong correlation between the three skills sets. People who are good in one, also tend to be good in another. The same applies the other way around — those who are weak in one area also tend to be weak in another.


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