Patrice Dougan is the Herald's education reporter.

New Zealand 15th in world literacy survey

New Zealand ranked higher in literacy than Germany (9), Canada (10), the US (11), UK (14) and Australia (15). Photo / Petrina Hodgson
New Zealand ranked higher in literacy than Germany (9), Canada (10), the US (11), UK (14) and Australia (15). Photo / Petrina Hodgson

New Zealand is the 15th most literate country in the world.

In a newly released study, The World's Most Literate Nations, New Zealand comes ahead of Australia (16) and the United Kingdom (17) but trails behind Nordic countries in the top five.

The study, conducted by John W. Miller, president of Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut, looked at literate behaviours and their supporting resources - five categories such as size and number of libraries and newspaper readership.

"The power of literacy and the value of being part of a literate world is often taken for granted," Mr Miller said.

The team examined data from 200 countries but, due to lack of relevant statistics, only 61 made the cut.

"The factors we examined present a complex and nuanced portrait of a nation's cultural vitality, and what the rankings strongly suggest and world literacy demonstrates is that these kinds of literate behaviours are critical to the success of individuals and nations in the knowledge-based economics that define our global future," Mr Miller said.

The study looks at two aspects of literacy - achievement in two international tests, Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) and Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA); and literate behaviour characteristics, which includes population, newspapers, libraries, and years of schooling.

One consistent finding, according to Mr Miller, is that "there is no meaningful correlation between years of compulsory schooling and educational expenditures on the one hand and test scores on the other".

Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway earn five of the top six slots in the study, largely because "their monolithic culture values reading", Mr Miller said.

He also points out that the rankings would be "very different" if the PIRLS and PISA test scores were the only indices used.

"The Pacific Rim countries, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and China, would top the list if test performance was the only measure. Finland would be the only non-Pacific Rim country to rank high.

"When factors such as library size and accessibility are added in, the Pacific Rim nations drop dramatically."

* The complete rankings are available at: www.ccsu.edu/wmln

TOP 20 MOST LITERATE NATIONS:

1. Finland

2. Norway

3. Iceland

4. Denmark

5. Sweden

6. Switzerland

7. United States

8. Germany

9. Latvia

10. Netherlands

11. Canada

12. France

13. Luxembourg

14. Estonia

15. New Zealand

16. Australia

17. United Kingdom

18. Belgium

19. Israel

20. Poland

BOTTOM 20 NATIONS:

42. Mexico

43. Croatia

44. Chile

45. China

46. Brazil and Serbia

48. South Korea

49. Singapore

50. Costa Rica

51. Argentina

52. Morocco

53. Turkey

54. Georgia

55. Qatar

56. Thailand

57. Botswana

58. Tunisia

59. Colombia

60. Albania

61. Indonesia

PATRICE DOUGAN

EDUCATION REPORTER

- NZ Herald

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