Ministry of Advanced Education

Adult Literacy

What is Literacy?

Literacy is the ability to understand and use printed information in daily activities at home, at work and in the community – to achieve one's goals, and to develop one's knowledge and potential. (International Adult Literacy Survey, 1995).

Improving the literacy levels of B.C. citizens is a government priority. The province's Literacy Action Plan is called ReadNowBC.

Community Adult Literacy Program (CALP)

A key component of B.C.'s adult literacy strategy is support for community-based programs. For over 20 years non-profit organizations, in partnership with post-secondary education institutions, have been supported by the province to provide programs to adults wishing to improve their literacy. The goals of the community adult literacy program are:

  • To increase the level of literacy and numeracy proficiencies among adults – 19 years and older – in order to meet the increasing demands of our knowledge-based economy.
  • To meet the varying needs of adult learners, including Aboriginal Peoples, immigrants and persons with disabilities.
  • To increase literacy awareness among British Columbians.

In the 2013/14 program year, 82 community-based literacy programs have been supported. View the complete listing of programs in communities across the province.

Reports and Publications

Results from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC)

PIAAC is Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's first ever international study of skills needed for the economy and society of the 21st century.

PIAAC measures skills in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments (PS-TRE) among adults between the ages of 16 and 65, in 24 countries and sub-national regions. In Canada, more than 27,000 people were surveyed to allow findings at both the pan-Canadian and provincial and territorial levels as well as among off-reserve Aboriginal peoples, immigrants, and official-language minorities.

PIAAC results will be made public on October 8, 2013. For more information, including the full report, please visit the PIAAC website.

Building Our Competencies: British Columbia Results of the International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey - 2003 [PDF]

This report presents the results of the 2003 International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey, designed to measure how well adults used printed information to function in society. 

The report:

  • Looks at levels of literacy in different regions and populations of British Columbia.
  • Analyzes relationships between age, education level, type of work and income with performance in literacy, numeracy and problem solving.

People from 16 to 65 were surveyed in seven countries:

  • Bermuda
  • Canada
  • Italy
  • Norway
  • Mexico (the state of Nuevo Leon)
  • Switzerland
  • United States

The two reports and their findings are used by governments, literacy and skills development professionals, researchers and the public. The data are used to inform policy decisions and respond to adult education needs.