Spain, Italy at bottom of OECD literacy survey

BRUSSELS, Oct. 8 — Italian and Spanish adults are lagging behind their peers in 22 other countries in terms of literacy and numeracy skills, according to the latest survey published here on Tuesday.
About one in five adults in Europe only have low literacy and numeracy skills, shows the survey of adult skills conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Commission.
In Spain and Italy, nearly 30 percent of their population belongs to this group, highlighting the challenges for the two countries to improve competitiveness in the face of the eurozone debt crisis for three years.
The survey took a sample of 166,000 adults aged between 16 and 65 in 24 countries, assessing their reading, numeracy and problem-solving abilities. It has been the first of its kind to measure people’s actual skills and how these skills are used at work instead of only judging by educational qualifications.
Japan and Finland ranked the first and the second in both literacy and numeracy proficiencies, while French and American adults scored significantly below the average level.
Roughly one in five adults from Japan and Finland can read at high levels, such as performing multiple-step operations to integrate, interpret or synthesize information. The corresponding figure was less than one out of 20 in Spain and Italy, according to the survey.
Up to 25 percent of adults lack digital skills needed to effectively use information and communication technologies. Almost one in five adults have no computer experience in Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Poland and Slovakia, the survey shows.
“The survey points to weaknesses in our education and training systems … It’s not acceptable that one fifth of our population has only low levels of skills,” Androulla Vassiliou, the EU’s commissioner for education, culture, multilingualism and youth, said here in Brussels while presenting the survey.
“Europe must act urgently to address these problems if we are to achieve the levels of employment, productivity, innovation, competitiveness and social inclusion that we all want to see,” she added.
Laszlo Andor, the EU’s commissioner for employment, social affairs and inclusion, also called on member states to invest more in skills and training both for the young unemployed and for the middle-aged and older workers.[db:内容2]