International adult literacy survey results

The previous survey showed at least 1 in 5 adult Albertans face daily literacy and numeracy challenges, the survey next will rerun in 2023.


Every 10 years, Alberta participates in an international survey that tests:

  • reading
  • numeracy
  • ability to problem solve in a technology rich environment

The survey is called the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC).

About the survey

PIAAC is administered by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The last survey’s results were released on October 8, 2013.

The survey assessed adult competencies for people aged 16-65 in 33 countries. It measured the key cognitive and workplace skills needed for individuals to participate in society and for economies to prosper.

Alberta participates in this survey as part of the Council of Ministers of Education Canada (CMEC), which:

  • provides leadership in education at the pan-Canadian and international levels
  • supports the exclusive jurisdiction of provinces and territories over education

Literacy and numeracy skills are building blocks for a successful life. All Albertans from childhood through adulthood need strong literacy and numeracy skills to:

  • effectively and efficiently learn new skills
  • adopt and adapt advanced information and communication technologies
  • optimize their lifelong learning potential
  • become active, participating members of their community and society

The next PIAAC survey is planned for 2021, with its results released in 2023.

2013 results

The Canadian component of PIAAC was carried out according to PIAAC guidelines. Approximately 1,000 Albertans were surveyed in 2013. Results are weighted to ensure representativeness of the sample.

According to PIAAC survey results, Alberta ranks highest in Canada and above or at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average in all 3 areas:

  • literacy
  • numeracy
  • problem solving in technology rich environments (PS-TRE), focusing on computer/technology literacy and skills

Despite Alberta’s ranking in comparisons with other places in Canada, the 2013 PIAAC survey results were clear that at least 1 in 5 adult Albertans face daily literacy and numeracy challenges.

Other Alberta results include:

  • 83% of Alberta respondents are able to complete the computer-based assessment (above the OECD average of 74%)
  • when compared to the OECD average, Alberta is the only jurisdiction in Canada with more people at the highest levels of proficiency in:
    • literacy
    • numeracy
    • computer literacy skills
  • Alberta's proportion of the population at the lowest proficiency levels is at the OECD average in all 3 domains
  • 19% of respondents in Alberta did not complete the PIAAC assessment in their first language, which is 9% above the OECD average, but 4% below the Canadian average
  • the mean score for Alberta’s youth aged 16 to 24 is at the OECD average in literacy and numeracy
  • 49% of Alberta’s population aged 16 to 24 performs at middle-range (Levels 2 or 3) in PS-TRE (at the OECD average)
  • literacy scores of Albertans aged 16 to 65 who have a bachelor's degree or higher are at the OECD average

Read the complete results:

Improving literacy rates

In 2009, the Government of Alberta launched Living Literacy: A Framework for Alberta’s Next Generation Economy to help ensure that:

  • Albertans have the literacy competencies to participate fully and successfully in living, learning and work
  • Alberta has a knowledgeable and innovative population able to thrive and contribute to the future of Alberta’s economy


Connect with the Foundational Learning and Skills Development Unit:

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Email: [email protected]