One-quarter of Ontario post-secondary grads have inadequate literacy skills

The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario conducted a study of recent university and college graduates that suggests only 25 per cent had the highest ranking for literacy, numeracy and critical-thinking skills. Photo from Getty Images.

When students graduate from college or university, employers expect them to know some basic skills, regardless of their major.

However, according to a recent study, approximately one in four students are falling short.

The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario conducted a study of recent university and college graduates, which was published on Nov. 23, 2018. The study suggests that a surprising number of graduates did not meet the “adequate” ranking for literacy, numeracy and critical-thinking skills.

The study was conducted in two trials involving more than 7,500 students at 20 Ontario post-secondary institutions, according to the council. First, the Essential Adult Skills Initiative (EASI) was administered to 4,600 first and final-year students who elected to participate in the project. The EASI trial found only 25 to 30 per cent of grads scored Level 4/5, which is the highest achievable level on the study.

Meanwhile, 25 per cent of final-year students ranked at Level 1 and Level 2, and 45 per cent of students ranked at Level 3, which is considered the minimum standard to perform well in the world at work, according to HEQCO’s summary.

To give you an idea of how that compares, at Literacy Level 1, students should be able to read various kinds of text to locate information, such as looking for a specific ingredient on a package label, according to the HEQCO guidelines. They should also be able to find a link on a website that gives a company’s contact information and hours, and read a table in the newspaper presenting information. At Level 2, the person should be able to compare two different information sources and make inferences from them, such as determining how to return a damaged product via a company website and the warranty information associated with the product.

To see how you compare, take the sample literacy quiz offered by the OECD (select “Demo Test” beside your country/language of choice). The numeracy skills look at how individuals process numeric information.

To see what skills are needed, try our short quiz below: