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November 9, 2005
For immediate release

Survey Shows Adult Literacy Skills In PEI Are On Par With Other Provinces


An international study released today shows that adult literacy skills in Prince Edward Island are similar to the Canadian average. Since the last survey was released in 1995 the number of Islanders with high literacy skills has increased slightly and the number of Islanders with low literacy skills has decreased slightly.

The International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey (IALSS) measures how well adults do in literacy and numeracy. Over 640 Islanders participated in the two-hour survey.

The survey uses five levels to report results. People with level 1 and 2 skills are those who cannot read or who can only deal with material that is simple and clear. Level 3 skills are considered the minimum level required to function in a complex and advanced society. People with level 4 and 5 skills have the highest information processing skills.

In Prince Edward Island, 19 per cent of respondents are at the highest levels, which are levels 4 and 5. This is higher than the Canadian average of 17 per cent. It is also 3 per cent higher than the Atlantic Canada average.

In Prince Edward Island, 38 per cent have level 3 literacy skills. This is 3 per cent higher than Canada and the same as the Atlantic region.

Finally, 43 per cent of Islanders have level 1 and 2 skills. This is 6 per cent lower than Canada and 2 per cent lower than Atlantic Canada.

“What this means is that in PEI we have fewer people at the lowest literacy levels and more people at the highest literacy levels. Although the differences are statistically small they show that this province is moving in the right direction. Hopefully this is a sign that the investments we are making in education are beginning to pay off,” said Premier Pat Binns. “Although we are making small gains, literacy is still a significant issue in PEI and we have much more to do.”

The premier advised that improving literacy levels happens slowly over time, and only when governments, schools, employers, families and other partners are all contributing. “In today’s economy, PEI’s greatest opportunity for success lies in our ability to improve our literacy and skill levels. We are encouraged by the tremendous work now being done in literacy in our province and we look forward to building on this momentum.”

In PEI, the highest literacy levels are among people aged 26 to 35. Compared to other countries, Prince Edward Island literacy levels were lower than Norway and Bermuda and higher than United States, Switzerland and Mexico.

Although there is a direct correlation between literacy levels and educational attainment, literacy is a more reliable measure of an individual’s skill level. Within any group of people who have the same amount of education, there are usually large differences in skill levels. People can improve their skill levels over time and they can also lose their skills through lack of use.

For more information on the IALSS survey, visit



• IALSS measures how well adults do in literacy, numeracy and problem solving. This involves how well they are able to understand and use print information at home, at work and in the community.

• The survey measures four different types of literacy:

a) Prose - information from news stories, brochures, and instruction manuals

b) Document - information from forms, schedules, maps and tables

c) Numeracy - the ability to use numbers embedded in print materials for things like balancing an account, figuring out a tip or completing a form

d) Problem Solving - involves goal-directed thinking and action in situations where there is no routine solution

• IALSS uses five levels to report results:

a) Level 1 indicates very low skills such as being unable to determine the amount of medicine to give a child from information printed on a package. (PEI 14%)

b) Level 2 respondents can deal only with material that is simple, clearly laid out, and where tasks involved are not complex. These people can read, but test poorly. They often develop coping skills to manage everyday tasks but find it difficult to face novel demands, such as learning new job skills. (PEI 29%)

c) Level 3 is considered a suitable minimum for coping with the demands of everyday life and work in a complex, advanced society. It denotes roughly the skill level required for successful high school completion and college entry. Like higher levels, it requires the ability to integrate several sources of information and solve more complex problems. (PEI 38%)

d) Levels 4 and 5 describe respondents who demonstrate command of higher level information processing skills. (PEI 19%)

• In PEI, 43 % of adults aged 16 to 65 were reported at Levels 1 and 2, compared to 45% in the Atlantic region. PEI has fewer people at the lowest level of literacy compared to the rest of the Atlantic region. PEI has the same percentage of people with Level 3 skills as our Atlantic counterparts. The percentage of people in Levels 4 and 5 in PEI increased by 3%. This is directly in contrast to the rest of the Atlantic region where this group has lost ground.

• Compared to Canada, PEI has a higher percentage of people with high literacy skills. PEI reported 19% of people in levels 4 and 5, compared to 17% in Canada. PEI has 3% more people at level 3, and 6% fewer people at the lowest levels which are levels 1 and 2.

• The average proficiency in PEI is statistically the same as the Canadian average in all domains: prose literacy, document literacy, numeracy and problem solving.

• Compared to other provinces, the average prose literacy score in PEI was higher than Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Nunavut; the same as Canada, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, North West Territories, and Manitoba; and lower than Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

• Compared to other countries, the average prose literacy score in PEI was lower than Norway and Bermuda and higher than Switzerland, Mexico and the US.

• At all levels, provincially and nationally, more people are struggling with numeracy than with prose or document literacy.

• In PEI, the highest levels of literacy are among people aged 26 to 35.

• In most provinces, the majority of youth have prose literacy levels of 3 or above.

• Linguistic Minorities in NB, PQ, ON, and MB scored less than their Anglophone counterparts. Anglophones and Francophones in Quebec, with similar education, perform the same.

• Education and literacy levels have a direct correlation.

• The last IALSS assessment was in 1994. At that time, PEI had a fewer people take part and as a result, did not have provincial results. In 2003, PEI had a larger sample participate and we are now able to report provincial results.

Media Contact: Jean Doherty
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