23 SES 10 B, PIAAC (Part 1)
Symposium to be continued in 23 SES 11 B
The PIAAC survey sets out to estimate the proportion of the adult population of participating countries at particular skill levels of “literacy,” “numeracy” and “computer use.” The information coming from this survey lacks clarity and application, to a large extent due to the shallow conceptual underpinnings of the measurement approach (St.Clair, 2013). Claims that PIAAC findings can inform human capital analysis and the policy arising from it are not well supported, and indeed can be seen as overblown. However, the PIAAC dataset is a unique resource for informing a different set of questions. The starting point for this discussion is the policy context of PIAAC and its results, and how they are being used in Canada. Critical policy analysis provides a means to understand how and why the values of one group are shaping public discourse (Grimley 1986), and can be considered as a three step process linking the global and local, exploring the policy, and exemplifying the effects (Rata 2014). One striking outcome of this analysis is the extent to which Canada has led, and invested in, PIAAC development and implementation, and yet has not applied the results in policy. One of the less appreciated features of the PIAAC dataset is the enormous amount of background information collected from participants. This information is used to condition and weight the tested outcomes in the process of determining the high level outcomes and population profiles. However, it has great potential to tell us about the patterns of participation and valued knowledge in our society in its own right (St. Clair, 2016). I conclude the analysis with a discussion of possible policy futures that would allow the resources and efforts committed to PIAAC to lead to better understanding of literacy and its social significance beyond simplistic models of human capital.
Grimley, J. (1986). Critical educational policy analysis: A discussion of perspectives. Australian Journal of Teacher Education 11(2), 19-26. Rata, E. (2014). The three stages of critical policy methodology: An example from curriculum analysis. Policy Futures in Education, 12(3), 347-358. St. Clair, R. (2013) The limits of levels: Understanding the International Adult Literacy Surveys. International Review of Education, 58(6), pp. 759-776. St. Clair, R. (2016). Plus ça change – The failure of PIAAC to drive evidence-based policy in Canada. Redaktion Zeitschrift für Weiterbildungsforschung, 39(2), 225-239.
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