Competencies in Later Life

Project Outline: CiLL and the German PIAAC-Survey

In the context of major demographic changes and an ageing society, Germany has to value and make use of every citizen’s competencies, regardless of age. We notably have to focus on older people, as they will make up an increasingly large part of the population. Therefore the CiLL-Survey – meaning Competencies in Later Life – focuses on a target group aged between 66-80 years.

CiLL is a parallel study to the German PIAAC-Survey. It is a joint project delivered by the German Institute for Adult Education (DIE) in cooperation with the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich (LMU) and the University of Tübingen. It is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

The project includes three parts:

  • Analysis of existing data, desk research
  • Development of case studies dealing with older adults in Germany, qualitative research
  • Comparison of results with an additional sample of older adults (ages 66 to 80) using PIAAC survey instruments

The CiLL project is guided by the following research questions:

  • Which competencies in the domains of ‘literacy’, ‘numeracy’ and ‘problem solving’ are available for people between the ages of 66-80?
  • What are the differences in competence-profiles of the older adults compared to younger age-groups? What can explain these differences?
  • What kinds of learning opportunities are available within daily life?
  • To what extent do older adults use their competencies in daily life?
  • Which competencies are necessary to cope with daily routine?
  • How do the competence-profiles of older adults vary depending on socio-demographic characteristics?
  • What is the role of (continuing) education in forming domain-specific competencies?
  • What is the connection between active living and the level of domain-specific competencies?

The project-results may contribute to provide new insights into achievement and learning potentials within the older population (66-80 years old), as well as on the importance of learning in general for this age group. The Project contributes to generate awareness of changing concepts and knowledge over the life span, as well as extending knowledge about learning in older ages through educational-biographical analysis. In addition the project delivers important guiding principles for identifying and interpreting competencies of older adults.

CiLL will assess the level and distribution of adult skills in a preferably coherent and consistent way to the German PIAAC sample.

“Measuring competencies is a topic of high scientific, political, and practical relevance. There is a diverse range of discussions, proposed solutions, and challenges. This is suggested not only by the importance and assertiveness of the major actors involved (e.g. the European Union and the OECD) but also by the economic and social implications associated with the issue.” (Gnahs 2011)

The three competence areas ‘literacy’, ‘numeracy’ and ‘problem solving’ are further defined as follows:

“Literacy is the ability to understand and use information from written texts in a variety of contexts to achieve goals and further develop knowledge and potential. This is a core requirement for the development of higher-order skills and for positive economic and social outcomes. Numeracy is the ability to use, apply, interpret, and communicate mathematical information and ideas. It is an essential skill in an age when individuals encounter an increasing amount and wider range of quantitative and mathematical information in their daily lives.

Problem-solving in technology-rich environments ‘refers to the ability to use technology to solve problems and accomplish complex tasks. It is not a measurement of “computer literacy, but rather of the cognitive skills required in the information age – an age in which the accessibility of boundless information has made it essential for us to be able to work out what information we need, to evaluate it critically and to use it to solve problems.’ (Gnahs 2011)

Further Course of the Project

The interviews of CiLL are carried out by the survey institute TNS Infratest in Munich. In Germany, 3,600 senior citizens in 111 municipalities were randomly selected from lists held at German registration offices. More than 1,300 interviews were conducted which equals a response rate of 39 %. The data for CiLL was collected by using first an elaborate background questionnaire which covered socio-demographic data and information on educational and qualification processes as well as labour status or previous employment and second assessments which tested the previously stated three central adult competence domains: literacy, numeracy and problem-solving in technology-rich environments. The prepared data is completed by the international coordinator ETS and supplemented by test results and weightings. Our research project additionally includes qualitative research on competencies of the elderly in the context of their specific life situation. These interviews contain self-assessments of competencies and background information on the environment of the life situation. Until today around 50 qualitative interviews were completed. For the most recent case studies of elderly people, four target groups were especially in focus: elderly people in the labour market, elderly migrants, elderly people doing a voluntary activity, and elderly people who care for family members.
The study’s results will be presented to the public in 2014.

Further Information

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