International Review of Education

, Volume 64, Issue 1, pp 85–110 | Cite as

Literacy skills gaps: A cross-level analysis on international and intergenerational variations

  • Suehye KimEmail author
Original Paper


The global agenda for sustainable development has centred lifelong learning on UNESCO’s Education 2030 Framework for Action. The study described in this article aimed to examine international and intergenerational variations in literacy skills gaps within the context of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For this purpose, the author examined the trend of literacy gaps in different countries using multilevel and multisource data from the OECD’s Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) and UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning survey data from the third edition of the Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE III). In this article, particular attention is paid to exploring the specific effects of education systems on literacy skills gaps among different age groups. Key findings of this study indicate substantial intergenerational literacy gaps within countries as well as different patterns of literacy gaps across countries. Young generations generally outscore older adults in literacy skills, but feature bigger gaps when examined by gender and social origin. In addition, this study finds an interesting tendency for young generations to benefit from a system of Recognition, Validation and Accreditation (RVA) in closing literacy gaps by formal schooling at country level. This implies the potential of an RVA system for tackling educational inequality in initial schooling. The article concludes with suggestions for integrating literacy skills as a foundation of lifelong learning into national RVA frameworks and mechanisms at system level.


literacy skills gap Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE) cross-level analysis 


Écarts d’alphabétisation: analyse multi-niveaux sur les variations internationales et intergénérationnelles – Le programme mondial de développement durable a placé l’apprentissage tout au long de la vie au centre du Cadre d’action Éducation 2030 de l’UNESCO. L’un des buts de l’étude présentée dans cet article consistait à examiner les variations internationales et intergénérationnelles dans les écarts d’alphabétisation par rapport aux Objectifs de développement durable (ODD) énoncés par les Nations Unies. À cette fin, l’auteure a exploré la tendance aux écarts d’alphabétisation dans divers pays, à partir de données multi-niveaux et multi-sources issues du Programme pour l’évaluation internationale des compétences des adultes (PEICA) de l’OCDE ainsi que des données d’enquête de l’Institut de l’UNESCO pour l’apprentissage tout au long de la vie pour la troisième édition du Rapport mondial sur l’apprentissage et l’éducation des adultes (GRALE III). Dans cet article, l’auteure porte une attention particulière aux effets spécifiques des systèmes éducatifs sur les écarts d’alphabétisation entre différents groupes d’âge. Les principaux résultats de cette étude indiquent d’importants écarts entre les générations à l’intérieur des pays ainsi que différents schémas entre les pays pour ces écarts d’alphabétisation. Les jeunes générations possèdent globalement des compétences lettrées supérieures aux adultes plus âgés, mais présentent des écarts plus marqués s’ils sont examinés en fonction du sexe ou de l’origine sociale. Cette étude établit en outre la tendance favorable pour les jeunes générations à tirer profit d’un système de reconnaissance, validation et accréditation (RVA), qui comble au niveau national les écarts d’alphabétisation survenus lors de la scolarité formelle. Ce qui implique qu’un système RVA ait le potentiel pour combattre les inégalités éducatives apparues au cours de la scolarité de base. L’article conclut sur des suggestions pour incorporer l’alphabétisation en tant que fondement de l’apprentissage tout au long de la vie dans les cadres nationaux de RVA et dans les mécanismes au niveau systémique.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature, and UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Melbourne Graduate School of EducationUniversity of MelbourneVictoriaAustralia

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