OECD: Dutch people highly literate, numerate

A recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) survey on Adult Skills has shown that Dutch people are highly proficient in literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skills.

The Dutch rank in the top four of each skill set, proving them to be above average among their peers.

The survey

The OECD measured the skills of adults from 16 to 65 in 24 countries across the world to examine literacy, numeracy and problem solving.

The results show that in the Netherlands around 18 per cent of adults have the highest levels of proficiency in literacy, compared to the average of around 12 per cent.

The highest level means the person can integrate, interpret and synthesise information from complex or lengthy texts that contain conditional and/or competing information.

This is comparable to the scores for numeracy, with 17 per cent of adults placed in the highest ranking, compared to the average of 12 per cent.

At this level, a person understands a broad range of mathematical information that may be complex, abstract or found in unfamiliar contexts.

Clever youth

Young adults (aged 16 to 24) in the Netherlands have higher proficiency than both older Dutch adults and their peers in other countries in literacy, numeracy and problem solving.

In literacy, young adults in the Netherlands are among the top performers, with an average proficiency only lower than young people in Japan, who have the highest average score.

In numeracy, young adults in the Netherlands show the highest average proficiency, along with their peers in Finland, Flanders, Japan and Korea.

Minority populations

As in most participating countries, relatively large minorities of the adult population in the Netherlands have poor literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skills.

Some 11 per cent of Dutch adults attain only Level 1 or below in literacy proficiency and 13 per cent attain Level 1 or below in numeracy (both these figures are nonetheless higher than the average).

Other countries

Countries with scores similar to or higher than the Netherlands are Japan, Sweden and Finland. Two of the countries closest to the Netherlands show marked differences, however.

In England, 16- to 24-year-olds have such low literacy and numeracy levels that England is now the only country in the developed world where the generation approaching retirement is more literate and numerate than the youngest adults.

In Germany, the number of adults attaining the highest level of proficiency in literacy is in fact below average: 10,7 per cent. They do slightly better in numeracy, with 14,3 per cent of adults able to work at the highest level.

Spain and Italy are the bottom two countries on both lists.

For more information, read the full survey or find summaries on specific countries.

Adult literacy

1. Japan
2. Finland
3. Netherlands
4. Sweden
5. Australia
6. Norway
7. Estonia
8. Slovak Republic
9. Flanders
10. Canada

Adult numeracy

1. Japan
2. Finalnd
3. Sweden
4. Netherlands
5. Norway
6. Denmark
7. Slovak Republic
8. Flanders
9. Czech Republic
10. Austria

Sources: OECD, Guardian

Alexandra Gowling


Alexandra Gowling

Alexandra is an Australian citizen and an experienced expat, having spent (quite a bit of) time in Asia before coming to the Netherlands a year ago. She enjoys writing, reading...

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