Up to six per cent of Ireland’s third level graduates are functionally illiterate, according to a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
These rates are significantly higher than the rates in Finland at two per cent and the Netherlands at three per cent, but it is similar to the UK at seven per cent.
Last week, the OECD expressed their concerns about the “huge drop” in the literacy standards of the students and graduates of Irish universities. The students’ low literacy levels raise concerns over the value of college degrees.
Dirk Van Damme, a senior official at the OECD’s directorate for education and skills, said that the figures are “not good for Ireland” and show that a university degree isn’t guaranteed against low skills.
“The fact that we have more higher education graduates does not mean that the economy and society is well served by the skills they need,” Van Damme told The Irish Times.
In 2012, data collected by OECD showed that only 19 per cent of Irish university graduates reached higher levels of numeracy. This number was lower than Finland, the Netherlands and England, who were at 37 per cent, 35 per cent and 25 per cent respectively.
Students applying for colleges are doing so on lower CAO points. In response to this colleges has started to provide maths and writing supports to help raise the literacy and numeracy standards.
DCU Lecturer Greg Foley told The Irish Times that he feels standards at a third level has lowered and he worries that higher education is turning into an extended form of secondary school.
He believes that several factors have led to this, such as poor student engagement, an unconscious dumbing down and shortened attention spans that are a result of the use of social media and digital technology.
The Irish government has an aim to ensure that Ireland has the “best education and training system in Europe by 2026, but this data presents questions for the higher education system in Ireland.