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International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey

April 20, 200620 April 2006

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This report provides a detailed examination of the results of Canadian adults with regard to their “prose”, “document”, “numeracy” and “problem-solving” skills in 2003. As noted in Volume 4, No. 3 of the Arts Research Monitor, the 2003 International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey found that 42% of Canadians scored below Level 3 prose literacy, “the desired threshold for coping with the increasing skill demands of a knowledge society”.

The report groups the provinces and territories based on average literacy scores. The highest-achieving group includes the Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. The jurisdictions with scores closest to the Canadian average are Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. The jurisdictions with “scores significantly below the national average in all domains” are Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Nunavut. In Quebec, there are significant differences between the average scores in the four different domains (with below-average scores in prose and document literacy but scores close to the Canadian average in numeracy and problem-solving).

Literacy performance was highest among anglophones and lower among Aboriginal people and immigrant Canadians. It should be noted, however, that the survey examined literacy in English and French only, not Aboriginal or other languages.

Contrary to the researchers’ expectations, the 2003 survey “found little improvement in the overall literacy of adult Canadians since they were assessed a decade ago”.

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