At a joint workshop on 4-6 December, Cedefop and OECD examined the first findings of the survey of adult skills (PIAAC), which show that literacy levels vary across countries and between vocational education and training (VET) and general education graduates at upper-secondary levels.

Cedefop is working closely with the OECD on developing indicators for the survey to measure development and use of skill.

In some European countries such as Finland or the Netherlands literacy scores are significantly above the OECD mean for this group, while in Spain, Poland and Ireland they are below. These differences matter. In Finland, for instance, literacy skills of young graduates from general upper secondary programmes are as good as those of university graduates in Italy.

Across all 24 countries from around the world participating in the survey the mean literacy score for young adults aged 16-29 whose highest level is vocationally oriented upper-secondary education is 273 out of a possible 500. A second round of the survey started in 2012 involving nine additional countries.

Cedefop Director James Calleja told the participants: ‘Skills are a passport to progression. No matter how many qualifications you have, it is what you can do that interests employers. It is time to look at education from a holistic point of view – horizontally and vertically. OECD’s survey of adult skills shows that education is making a difference in many countries.’