In the past we have relied on anecdotal information, statistics from Nunavut Arctic College on student enrolment in and graduation from literacy programs, and self-reported results from the 2001 Nunavut Household Survey.
These sources of information indicated that literacy rates in Nunavut were very low. The survey did not tell us the extent of the issue and who had low literacy rates and why. These important questions need to be answered before any kind of strategy can be developed to deal effectively with the issue.
In 2003 Nunavut took part in the International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey. Taking part in this international research study enabled us to confirm the extent of the literacy issue and to understand ways in which we could deal with it.
The 2003 International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey (IALSS) was a joint project of the Government of Canada, the US National Center for Education Statistics, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The first results from this survey were released on May 11, 2005.
IALSS built on its predecessor, the 1994 International Adult Literacy Survey, which was the world's first internationally comparative survey of adult skills. In Canada data were not collected from the territories in the 1994 survey. In the 2003 survey more than 23,000 individuals aged 16 and over from across the ten provinces and three territories spent an average of two hours responding to the questions. The survey aimed to measure the literacy, numeracy, and problem solving competencies of the Canadian population.
Statistics Canada worked with Nunavummit Kiglisiniartiit, the Government of Nunavut department responsible for statistics, to carry out the survey in eleven communities across Nunavut.
The results of the survey were published in Building Our Competencies: Canadian Results of the International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey. Building Our Competencies also analyses the relationships between literacy skills and socio-demographic characteristics such as age, education level, type of work, and income.