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What You Need to Know About PIAAC’s International Skills Assessment

PIAAC stands for the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies. PIAAC. One of PIAAC’s best-publicized programs is its Survey of Adult Skills, which was featured in this story in The Atlantic.

The survey, which is conducted across 33 countries, measures “key cognitive and workplace skills needed for individuals to participate in society and for economies to prosper.” (Source)

The goal of the survey is to assess workers from age 16 to age 65 to see how well-developed the skills of a nation’s workers are — especially relative to those of workers in other industrialized nations. Additionally, the survey hopes to help countries “better understand how education and training systems can nurture these skills.” (Source)

The survey assesses literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving, as well as cognitive skills, interaction and social skills, physical skills, and learning skills.

And because it takes into account each survey participant’s age, education level, and other demographic details, nations can even see how their populations (younger vs. older; more educated vs. less educated, etc.) compare with one another.

To that end, the study found that while the U.S. workers’ skills aren’t as well developed as other those of workers in other nations, the U.S. ranks much higher in terms of the number of citizens with advanced degrees than other nations do.

PIAAC’s website says that, “Actual skill levels often differ from what formal education qualifications suggest. For example, Italy or the United States rank much higher internationally in the share of adults with tertiary degrees than in the level of literacy or numeracy proficiency.” 

The more educated American survey participants were, the closer they came to closing the skills gap with workers in Japan and Finland — the highest performing countries on the assessment.

Does a skills gap truly exist between the U.S. and other wealthy nations? If PIAAC’s survey results are accurate, then the answer is yes. The next question we should be asking is, “What can America’s public schools do about it?”.

Are you curious to learn more about the International Assessment of Adult Competencies? Beginning in August, you can take the test online to see how your skills stack up against those of other well-developed nations around the world!

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