Chapter 1 - Fact Sheet 1

Measuring the Literacy Problem in Canada

What is literacy?

More than 23,000 Canadian adults took part in an International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey in 2003. This survey defined literacy as “the ability to use and understand information that is fundamental to daily life at work, at home, and in the community.” Statistics Canada and Human Resources Development Canada have adopted this definition.

The 2003 International Survey measured four skills:

How is literacy measured?

Everyone who took part was rated on each skill on a scale from 0 to 500 points. Their prose literacy, document literacy, and numeracy scores were then grouped into five levels of competency. (Problem solving has only four levels.)

The Government of Canada sets Level 3 as the minimum literacy that people need to cope with the increasing information demands of our society. The Conference Board of Canada believes that, in an information society, people need a score of at least 300 to be employable.

These are the five cognitive levels:
Level 1 0–225 points This is the lowest level of literacy.
Level 2 226–275 points  
Level 3 276–325 points This is the minimum level needed.
Level 4 326–375 points  
Level 5 376–500 points This is the highest level of literacy.