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Adult Language Literacy and Numeracy: the elephant in the room

Language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) is not a common subject amongst adults in most circles. A lot of emphasis is placed on developing these skills for children; however statistics reveal that many adult Australians have issues with these skills.

A survey of Adult Skills in 2011-12 found that around 3.7% (620,000) of Australians aged 15 to 74 years had literacy skills at Below Level 1, a further 10% (1.7 million) at Level 1, 30% (5.0 million) at Level 2, 38% (6.3 million) at Level 3, 14% (2.4 million) at Level 4, and 1.2% (200,000) at Level 5.

Literacy Levels Explained

Below Level 1: classed as being unable to read or understand basic digital and printed text. 

Level 1: classed as being able to read and understand short digital or print text with basic information. 

Level 2: classed as being able to read and understand text and identify matches between the text and information. 

Level 3: classed as being able to identify, respond to and construct meaning from lengthy text. 

Level 4: classed as being able to respond to and understand complex text and interpret non-central ideas or subtle evidence.  

Level 5: classed as being able to comprehend information across multiple dense texts, evaluate contrasting ideas and evidence based arguments. Respondents also evaluate the reliability and source of the text and are aware of subtle and rhetorical cues in the text. 

For further information on what each level is classed as click here. 

The below graph shows the proportion at each literacy level in the 2011-12 survey;


Within the VET sector we find many students who wish to undertake training do not have adequate LLN skills to do so. In this case we need to refer them to a service which will assist them in developing their LLN skills.

There are a number of excellent services available across Australia including:

The reading and writing hotline 

The reading and writing hotline is a national telephone referral service for adult literacy and numeracy. It was established in 1994 and is funded by Australian Government Department of Education and managed by TAFE NSW.

SEE (Skills for Education and Employment)

The Skills for Education and Employment program is run by the Department of Human Services and provides language, literacy and numeracy training to eligible job seekers, to help them to participate more effectively in training or in the labour force.

For more information on literacy and numeracy programs in your area visit the Australian Government website:

Written by Mikayla Whitehead (Marketing & Administration)