RSS

Australian Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey 2

28 Nov

Jim Belshaw has posted on the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey 2006 from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, released just today. I have downloaded the full report, and to be honest have not had time to do more than browse.

Jim’s post does have a good historical introduction.

He then notes:

A second thing stands out when I look at the numbers. Those in the 15 to 19 age cohort had lower levels of literacy than the 20 to 24 year age cohort and by a reasonable margin.

The following graph captures that; I won’t even try to explain the five categories at this stage. The general trend is what Jim is referring to.

Proportion at skill level 1/2, by age
0.gif

Skill Levels 1/2 are the lowest levels. The lower the line the better.

Let me offer a mischievous interpretation.

Given that those aged 15-19 had all or most of their education during the Howard years… And that the “best” figures encompass those educated during the years categorised during the Howard years as a hopeless period of educational anarchy, that is those aged in their 20s to mid 30s. And noting that the “worst” figures are for those over 50, a large proportion of whom would have learned their literacy using phonics and traditional grammar, especially those over 60…

But that is mischievous.

It could be softening of the brain too.

The report summary merely states:

Literacy levels tended to decrease with age, with higher proportions of people in the older age groups attaining skill scores lower than Level 3. The exception to this was the 15 to 19 years age group, which had lower levels of literacy than the 20 to 24 year age group. Of those aged 15 to 19 years, 52% attained skill scores lower than Level 3 on the prose scale, 47% on the document scale and 57% on the numeracy scale, compared to 37% on both prose and document scales and 45% on the numeracy scale for those aged 20 to 24 years…

I found this quite fascinating too:

PERSONS WHOSE FIRST LANGUAGE WAS NOT ENGLISH

The ALLS was conducted in Australia’s official language, English. Examining the literacy skills of people whose first language was not English, 36% of this group achieved scores at Level 3 or above on the prose scale and 38% on the document scale, compared to 54% and 53% respectively for the general population (table 19).

Compared to 1996, of the people who migrated to Australia in the five years prior to the survey whose first language was not English, there was a statistically significant increase in the proportion of people attaining literacy scores of Level 3 or above on both the prose and document scales. On the prose scale, the proportion of this group with scores at Level 3 or above increased from 22% to 38% while on the document scale the proportion increased from 32% to 50% (table 19).

The international comparison should prevent us from panicking too much.

Prose literacy, proportion at skill level 3 or above, by Age(a) – for selected countries
4.gif

In this case, the higher the line the better. Levels 3, 4 and 5 are the best levels.

Norway’s performance may partly be due to the size and homogeneity of the population, but there are possibly other factors. See The Teaching of Literacy: Debates Conference 2006:

Sue Palmer, lobbied for a “proper foundation period” before children begin formal reading and writing lessons. Sue made her case by discussing her visits to countries like Norway and Sweden which concentrate on music, song, drama and the development of motor skills through a structured kindergarten programme. Here, children do not begin formal writing until the age of six or even seven compared with four or five in England, and as a consequence, Sue argued, children’s reading skills top the league tables in Europe.

Update 4 December

See Email re the Educational Testing Service on English/ESL.



Site Meter

Advertisements
 
6 Comments

Posted by on November 28, 2007 in Aussie interest, Education, Jim Belshaw, Observations

 

6 responses to “Australian Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey 2

  1. Jim Belshaw

    November 29, 2007 at 6:12 am

    Thought that this one would attract you, Neil. Both our girls started at a Montessori kindi. When eldest enrolled in state primary she actually went backwards.

    With the over fifties, don’t forget that the average length of schooling was a lot less then. You can actually see this from electorate stats. The older the electorate, the less the average schooling.

     
  2. ninglun

    November 29, 2007 at 9:08 am

    Your last point is very true, Jim, even if it could also be argued that length of schooling is not necessarily all that relevant as the bulk of literacy work is done well before that final two years of high school. It may well be, of course, that the literacy demands this survey taps into require full secondary or even tertiary education if anyone is actually able to attain the top level. I suspect, looking at the descriptors, that may be the case. However, Levels 1 to 3 are not subject to that criticism, so the age graph above is not affected so much by that consideration.

    Do keep in mind my flagging “a mischievous interpretation”… No worse, however, than the tabloid interpretation of the figures representing some kind of totally dreadful state of affairs.

    I was very serious, however, in offering that information about Norway.

     
  3. Jim Belshaw

    November 29, 2007 at 11:19 am

    I recognised the mischievous element Neil. On Norway, that was the point of my Montessori example. While there were reading elements, the core approach is well summarised in “which concentrate on music, song, drama and the development of motor skills through a structured kindergarten programme”.

    Helen had had, I think, two years Montessori when she hit official kindi.

     
  4. ninglun

    November 29, 2007 at 11:24 am

    My grandfather (teacher from 1906 — late 1940s) was a great advocate of the Montessori method.

     
  5. Jim Belshaw

    November 29, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    That’s very interesting, Neil. In the early part of the twentieth century there was great interest in the NSW Department of Public Instruction about new methods, including Montessori.

    I haven’t forgotten, by the way, doing some posts on the history of public eduaction in NSW, weaving your family story into it. I just seem to have too much to write about!

    Naughty of me I know, but I must say that I am pleased with the Liberal’s choice of deputy leader because I suspect that it will give you something to write about over coming months!

     
  6. ninglun

    November 29, 2007 at 7:39 pm

    Naughty of me I know, but I must say that I am pleased with the Liberal’s choice of deputy leader because I suspect that it will give you something to write about over coming months!

    Well, I suppose we have to wait and see.

     
 
%d bloggers like this: