What does it mean to be literate in today’s modern day and age? Literacy in the traditional sense – the ability to read and write – is no longer sufficiently descriptive of the basic skills a person needs to be educated and employable. In an increasingly technologically-reliant world, basic computer skills are a fundamental element of today’s “literacy.”
Tomorrow is International Literacy Day, as marked by UNESCO decades ago when the idea of computer literacy would not have been conceivable. Yet, to really evaluate literacy in Israel in 2017, it is important to look at levels of digital proficiency among the country’s various population groups. These skills are increasingly required in the work place and will likely only grow in importance in the coming years.
The Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC, Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies) measures adults’ proficiency in problem solving in computerized surroundings – that is, their ability to use technology to carry out certain tasks. As can be seen in the graph below, skills are divided into three levels, with Level 3 indicating high digital competency. Respondents with no computer literacy took a paper version of the survey and are marked separately than those falling into one of the three levels (the gray bars).
What does this graph tell us? The figure shows the results of the survey for workers in OECD countries. The two columns to the left of zero show the lowest performing workers: those taking the paper survey or those ranked Level 1 or below. To the right of zero are columns showing the number of workers at proficiency levels higher than Level 1.
Overall, Israel falls below the OECD average on several measures: about 16% of the population did not take the computerized version of the survey versus about 11% in the OECD, and only 27% were ranked in the highest two levels of proficiency as opposed to about 31% in the OECD.
The results of the survey are even more telling when broken down by sector. Non-Haredi Jews in Israel have high competency levels relative to workers in other countries. However, proficiency levels among Haredim are low, with under 20% of Haredim ranked in the highest two levels of proficiency. Among Arab Israelis, proficiency levels are even lower – falling at the very bottom of the OECD ranking. Particularly notable in the Arab Israeli group, is the very high percentage of those with no computer literacy who took the paper version of the survey, which stands at nearly 26%.
The rankings of the Haredi and Arab Israeli populations, who also struggle with other obstacles related to labor force participation, highlight the importance of providing them with computer literacy skills. Because education in Israel is administered separately by the different sectors, it is important to introduce enhanced digital learning into schools in the Haredi and Arab Israeli sectors in order to work towards narrowing these computer literacy gaps among future generations of Israelis.
* Photo via Visualhunt