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1994 International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS)

Definition of literacy used in the International Adult Literacy Survey: "the ability to understand and use printed information in daily activities, at home, at work and in the community, to achieve one's goals and to develop one's knowledge and potential."

The survey tested 3 categories of literacy skills:

1. Prose literacy: the ability to understand and use information from texts, brochures, etc.

2. Document literacy: the ability to locate and use information from documents.

3. Quantitative literacy: the ability to do arithmetic functions (i.e. adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing).

Literacy skills were divided into 5 broad literacy levels:

Level  1 - very low literacy skills.  People would have trouble identifying the correct amount of medicine to give a child from the information found on the package label.

15% of adult Albertans are at this level.

Level  2 - people can only deal with material that is simple and clearly laid out - tasks are not too complex.  People at this level read - but not too well.

21% of adult Albertans are at this level.

Level  3 - is the minimum desirable level of literacy proficiency.

36% of adult Albertans are at this level. 

Levels 4 & 5 - people have the ability to integrate several sources of information or solve more complex problems.

28% of adult Albertans are at these levels.

Literacy Facts

1. The levels of educational attainment of individuals are also influenced by the literacy levels of their parents.  This indicates there is an intergenerational link to literacy.

2. There is a clear relationship between grades completed in school and literacy levels.  It is important to remember that grades completed in school are not the same as levels of literacy skills.

3. Literacy and Immigration - there is a significantly higher proportion of immigrants who have level 1 literacy skills in their new language.  But the proportion of immigrants with levels 4/5 is higher than the proportion of non-immigrant Canadians.

4. Literacy levels vary from generation to generation.  There is a marked difference between those who were educated after World War II or before World War II.

5. Literacy skills vary by occupation.  Some occupations need high-level skills and others only require intermediate or basic skills.

6. Literacy and unemployment - an unemployed person is about 3 times as likely to be at level 1.

7. There is an undeniable link between literacy and poverty - 64% of people earning less than $10,000 per year do not have literacy skills to cope with everyday life.

8. Literacy skills require practice on a regular basis to maintain them.

9. Literacy remains the same as it was 5 years ago:  significant numbers of adults have low literacy levels that hinder their participation in society and in the economy.

Centre for Family Literacy famlit.ca
Phone 780.421.7323 | Fax 780.421.7324 | Email info@famlit.ca