Volume 1, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1387-6732
  • E-ISSN: 1570-6001
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The International Adult Literacy Survey (MLS) offers researchers comparative data on levels of literacy in seven industrial societies, based on an instrument reflecting the "cognitivist" approach to measurement adapted from the work of Kirsch & Mosenthai. 'The use of nationally representative samples and systematically conducted household interviews represents a great advance on previous census and school-based studies, but the research embodies some serious conceptual problems. Some of these derive from the initial adoption of a definition of literacy that is not subsequently operationalized in the study. Others spring from the use of test items originating in North American research which were not demonstrably familiar to the non-Anglophone participants in the study. As a consequence, some of the occupational and international differences detected are likely to be an artifact of the scales used.This paper also examines the survey's findings, explanations, and predictions relating to the role of literacy in the labor markets for lower-skill jobs. It is argued that the single-snapshot design of the MLS study does not support predictions about future labor market developments, and that some of the explanations are not supported by relevant British research. The IALS approach is criticized for adopting a conception of literacy that is over-individualistic and which is too exclusively tied to a partisan view of labor market processes.


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  • Article Type: Research Article

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