Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Adults Falling Behind

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Adults Falling Behind

Article excerpt

American adults are not only not "the best in the world," they are slipping in comparison to their peers around the world, according to a massive study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The OECD Survey of Adult Skills is a new international study examining the skills of 16- to 65-year-olds across 24 countries, including how literacy, numeracy, and problem solving are used at work. The survey examined 160,000 adults, including 5,000 Americans.

The survey showed that high-quality initial education is an important predictor for success in adult life. But countries must combine this with flexible, skills-oriented learning opportunities throughout life, in particular for working-age adults.

Some of the key findings:

* In literacy skills, 22% of Japanese adults performed at the highest level of proficiency; only 12% of U.S. adults did so. Overall, U.S. adults were below average for literacy skills.

* In numeracy skills, almost one in three adults in the United States (28.7%) perform at or below the most basic level of numeracy, compared to around one in 10 in Japan (8.2%), Finland (12.8%), and the Czech Republic (12.8%).

* In the U.S., the literacy and numeracy skills of young people entering the labor market are worse than for those who are ready for retirement. …

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