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Education systems, education reforms, and adult skills in the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC)

This study uses the [Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies] PIAAC data to examine the relationships between education system characteristics (e.g. early tracking and vocational education orientation) and distributions of adult numeracy skills. It also investigates the effects of postponing the tracking age and easing university access for students on a vocational track on the average skills and different percentiles of the skills distribution. Correlational analysis suggests that education systems with more students enrolled in vocational tracks have on average higher levels of numeracy skills and more compressed skills distributions between the 50th and 90th percentiles. Further analysis suggests that postponing the tracking age among 14 European countries does not have a significant effect on the average skills of the population. However, it increases skills for individuals at the 10th, 20th, and 30th percentiles of the skill distribution. Expanding university access is associated with an increase in numeracy skills, particularly for individuals at the bottom three deciles of the distribution.