Report analysing PIAAC data reveals that American youth is increasingly better educated but with lower skills
Educational Testing Service (ETS), an US based private non-profit educational testing and assessment organisation has examined PIAAC data for US.
PIAAC is the short version for Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, an OECD led project in 24 countries to examine the skills among adult populations. Here, PIAAC results complement the skills assessment of pupils with PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) and AHELO (Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes). Some of the initial analysis were published in late 2013.
ETS has examined PIAAC data for the US, and in particular for the so-called millenial generation that has been isolated from the total for this report. Their main starting point is that this is the best educated generation in the US history, but this generation also consistently appears to score below international average in literacy, numeracy and problem solving with technology.
Literacy in the PIAAC study is defined as “understanding, evaluating, using and engaging with written texts to participate in society, to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential”, and it was operationalised both as an ability to comprehend and decode text as well as using the text appropriately in context. The test did not measure actual writing skills. Numeracy was defined as “the ability to access, use, interpret and communicate mathematical information and ideas, in order to engage in and manage the mathematical demands of a range of situations in adult life” and its operationalisation included both understanding mathematical information, but also a wider understanding of mathematical content – such as quantity and number; dimension and shape; patterns, relationships and changes; and data and chance. The third skill in focus in the ETS report is “problem solving in technology-rich environments”. While on first glance somewhat cumbersome definition, in PIAAC this refers to digital skills, that is: “using digital technology, communication tools and networks to acquire and evaluate information, communicate with others and perform practical tasks”. Here, a wide range of digital skills were evaluated.