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By now, about 500 students a year are placed in education programmes of basic skills in Austria. Demand, however, is up to 14% of the 15 year-olds in Austria (PISA 2000) and, according to estimates by the UNESCO, 3% of the adult population, that is 300.000 people. Altogether, the OECD assumes about 4 - 5% of the Austrian population who do not have sufficient basic knowledge to "function" appropriately in society. This discrepancy of offer and demand is due to the fact that the subject of educational deficiencies is still a taboo in Austria. In some federal states there are still no or not enough courses offered for the people concerned.

In addition to this, a considerable lack of knowledge in basic skills and competences has been found in vocational education with apprentices. It is also in this area that the need of measures has been realized.

It is estimated that the results of the OECD-PISA-Study, among other factors, lead to an increase in new initiatives and the adaptation of measures. The government and other institutions have announced their readiness to set further measures and provide funds and support.

As to future developments, it can be estimated that there will be increased interest and need for additional tools to integrate IT in the class systems, as well as in several settings of assessment. Technical equipment is being installed and improved. IT is more and more understood as a central issue in teaching basic skills.



Experts estimate that in Germany approximately four million people are illiterate, which amounts to 6.3 percent of the whole population. At the first look these numbers are hard to believe in an educated land such as Germany. This can be explained when you study and analyse these statistics. The German Federal Statistical Office estimated for the year 2000 and 2001 that there are 88.500 German citizens without a secondary high school finishing qualification – this is approximately 10 percent of all school-leavers for one year.

The results of the PISA-study in Germany indicate that there is a connection between the failure in the education process and social background. The German school system is not always able to offer all pupils a basic education in reading, writing and counting also how to use the new media available. A quarter of all 15 year olds in Germany belong to a risk group because of their bad reading qualities which leads to a threat of becoming social outcasts. Also in both studies demanding writing skills were not even tested.



In France it is estimated that between 10% and 14% of 18-65 year olds have difficulty in reading. If we only count those who have learnt to read and write in French the rate is between 7% and 10%. Conversely between a half and a third of those whose schooling has been in another language have difficulty in reading French.

Men are more likely to experience difficulties than women: between 11% and 15% have difficulty with writing as opposed to 7% to 12% of women. The problem also concerns elderly people more than the young: 13%-20% for 50 to 65 year olds as opposed to 3%-8% for the under thirties. This could be accounted for by the higher proportion of immigrants in the over fifties than in the under thirties.

For those of working age (18 –65 years) whose mother tongue is French the unemployment rate is:

  • 30% for those who have reading and writing difficulties,
  • 13% for those with no difficulties.
  • 20% of the prison population are in a situation of illiteracy on entering prison;
  • 15% have lesser difficulties but still do not pass the reading test.

In France there is a census of all young people at the age of 17; this precedes a compulsory Defence Information day or ‘JAPD’ which consists of a programme of information about the Defence forces, and tests to assess written comprehension. In 2000-2001, of the 562,964 young people – 322,802 boys and 240,140 girls – who participated in these ‘JAPD’ tests 11.6% failed the diagnostic test (13.9% of boys; 8.6% of girls). Following these tests, 6.4% of those present were identified as being in situations of illiteracy, 8.4% of boys and 4% of girls. 43% of the 22,411 young people interviewed in 2000/2001 accepted referral to organisations which could help them with their difficulties.

The number of people benefiting each year from basic skills training in France does not exceed 50,000.



According to the ILO (International Labour Organization) Statistic Survey the Adult Illiteracy Rate in Italy is represented as follows:

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The Second International Adult Literacy Survey represents the Italian population as follows:

  • One third does not get over the level 1/Subjects of an extremely low literacy level bordering on illiteracy.
  • One third reaches the level 2/Subjects who can read very simple texts, but who have difficulty in dealing with new tasks and in learning new job skills.
  • One third, altogether, reaches the levels 3-4/5.


In the early 1990s nearly 75% of the Spanish population over 45 years of age was functionally illiterate. The illiteracy rate increased continuously with age. At the same time the dropout rate from the formal school system was about 30%, indicating a high permanent rate of functionally illiterate youth. On average, female illiteracy was more than twice as high as male illiteracy. The phenomenon of massive high female illiteracy was particularly significant among women above 60 years of age. Spanish illiteracy also reflects a regional character: data shows that in the early 1990s the southern regions had the highest levels of functional illiteracy (about 7.5% to 10%).


United Kingdom

The number of adults in the UK with literacy problems is estimated at 7 million (20% of the adult population). The UK market size can be defined either by the size of the problem (i.e. seven million people) or by the 3 billion invested in tackling it from the UK Government between 2000 and 2004. The market is likely to grow in the next five years as the Government committed a further 1.5bn to the Skills for Life Strategy from 2004 to 2007.

Levels of basic skills needs across the UK

For its Writing Skills Survey in 1995, the Basic Skills Agency divided adults with poor basic skills into three attainment groups to give a better indication of the differing levels of support individuals require to improve their skills.

The basis for this data is a survey carried out for the BSA by Opinion Research Business. Seventeen surveys were conducted throughout England. Some 8,804 interviews were completed with adults ranging from 16 to 60.

The results of this study provide detailed statistics for each area of England, for use by local groups for setting targets and meeting need.

  • On a national average, 15% of the people have low literacy skills – these are adults considered to be on the borderline of functional literacy and numeracy and who would need only a little support to reach the national average.
  • Another 5% show lower skills – adults in this group would be expected to have difficulties in coping with at least some of everyday literacy and numeracy requirements.
  • Another 4% of the adults have very low literacy skills – most of this group would need intensive help to bring them up to the basic skills threshold. Some may never reach the threshold, particularly if they have learning difficulties.

Men without qualifications were four times more likely to be unemployed in 1999 than those who had a degree-level education.

Less than 1% of school leavers and adults can be described as illiterate. Basic literacy skills, however, may be insufficient to meet the demands of many occupations. Seventeen per cent of people had low writing skills.

Twelve per cent of young adults said they had problems with reading, writing, spelling or basic maths.



There is no comprehensive statistic data as regards to basic skills in Bulgaria.


Czech Republic

Statistical data do not detect functional illiteracy.

80 % of children from the Roma minority leave a special basic school but no normal school. They do not manage normal school because do not manage the Czech language and come from a social-cultural background with a low educational tradition.

According to several sociological researches (Gypsies in Czech republic, 1999, Socioclub,

Gypsies in a Czech society, 2003, Portal) is rates of functional illiteracy among the Roma minority is 3 – 9 %. They have, of course, compulsory education too, and a last one year at a kindergarten is compulsory for all children in the Czech Republic.

Czech society is more less homogeneous, with minimum of migrants, even if the number is growing after 1989 year. Most of them have come here to work. We know little about their literacy. They do various kinds of profession. The labour office monitors them, but it is difficult to detect illiteracy here. They fill the applications at home.

Regarding to refugeesand asylum seekers, the Czech Republic is for them only transit, not target. However, there is a specific situation respecting to Vietnam citizens. They have come to this country more then 30 years ago. They are businessmen on the streets. They have a motivation to learn Czech language and to work hard. The young generation establishes here their families and sends children to kindergartens and schools. Their children can speak Czech perfectly.