The skills difference between young and older adults in Singapore is higher than in most other countries, an OECD study has found.

It yesterday released a report on adults’ literacy, numeracy and problem solving skills across 33 countries.

In Singapore, “young people perform much better than older adults in all three domains assessed”, wrote Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills on the study’s launch.

The age gap for literacy in Singapore is one of the most extreme, the report says. “Only 2.4% of Singapore’s 55-65 year-olds demonstrate strong literacy skills, while young Singaporeans now benefit from one of the world’s most advanced education systems”, Schleicher wrote.

The gap in the share of tertiary-educated young and old is higher than any other country surveyed – a difference of 55 percentage points between 25-30 year olds with tertiary education and 55-65 year olds with the same level of education.

The results show the expansion in Singapore’s education system and growth in quality over the years. “The message is loud and clear: if countries want a highly skilled workforce, they have to get compulsory education right,” Schleicher added.

But education must continue after school, the study shows. Proficiency can improve over time, and governments can help citizens pick up new skills throughout their lifetime, Schleicher adds.

Singapore, for instance, has launched the SkillsFuture scheme. It gives citizens above 25 years old $500 worth of credits to continue their training beyond school.

Image by Har Gobind Singh Khalsa, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0