Basic skills

Our agency works to improve basic skills in the adult population in the areas of literacy, numeracy, oral communication and the use of ICT.

Our objective

The main objective of our work is to increase the quality of teaching and ensure that individuals get an education adapted to their needs, so that every adult can attain the level of basic competence that enables him/her to meet the increased demands of today’s work and everyday life.

Adult Skills 

In Norway, the mean proficiency scores of 16–65 year-olds in literacy and numeracy are significantly above the average of the OECD countries participating in the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC).

Only 6.9% of the adult population (16–65 year-olds) report no prior experience with computers or lack very basic computer skills. In contrast, 41% of the adult population score at the highest level in problem solving in technology-rich environments, a proportion significantly above the average of the OECD countries participating in the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC).

Although Norway had a high score in the PIAAC survey of adult skills compared to other countries, there are still a large number of adults whose basic skills need to be addressed. Statistics show that approximately 400 000 adults are at risk.

The PIAAC results show that:

  • About 400 000 adults score at level one or below in reading.

  • Almost 500 000 score at level one or below in numeracy.

  • The younger adult population (16–24 year-olds) scores significantly below the average in literacy of the OECD countries participating in the Survey. In numeracy, they score around the average. In both domains, younger adults score higher than their older counterparts (55–65 year-olds).

  • In general, the number of people with low basic skills increases with age.

  • Immigrants, especially from non-western countries, have a low score.

  • Among people with low scores, these factors occur more frequently: low levels of education, unemployment, social benefits as main income.

International surveys

Norway has taken part in three large international surveys concerning basic skills in the adult population; International Adult Literacy Survey, IALS, 1994–1998, Adult Literacy and Life Skill Survey, ALL (2004–2006) and The Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competence, PIAAC (2013).

Tools and resources

The Competence Goals are examples of local curricula in basic skills for adults. They are based on the curricula in the Knowledge Promotion Reform and the Framework for Basic Skills prepared by the Norwegian Directorate of Education and Training.

The Competence Goals are a revised version of the Competence Goals in Basic Skills for Adults. They can be used as an aid in adapting learning content to adults, irrespective of the setting in which this learning takes place. The example of a local curriculum in reading and writing as a basic skill has been developed with a view to training of adults. In addition, it may be suitable for some students at the lower and upper secondary levels.

The Competence Goals gives examples of how the skills can be used in adults’ everyday life, working life and in educational activities. The examples are not exhaustive and in a training situation they should be adapted and supplemented with other examples and illustrations that are relevant to the participants.

The competence goals are divided into three levels which describe the advancing abilities and the intended learning outcomes for each of the basic skill.


Reading means to create meaning in the widest sense and gives insight into other people’s experience, opinion and knowledge independent of time and place. Writing involves expressing oneself understandably and appropriately about different topics and communicating with others in the written mode.

  • An ability to read and write at level 1–2 includes reading and writing brief and familiar texts that one encounters frequently. Some support may be needed when reading and writing in new situations.

  • An ability to read and write at level 3 includes reading and writing comprehensible texts. One relates actively to written information and has strategies for refinement of these skills. One can use reading and writing in new situations, for learning and for solving some challenges in everyday life.

  • An ability to read and write at level 4 includes mastery of formal requirements for a diversity of texts. One reads and writes an independent, critical and flexible manner and selects strategies on the basis of settings and needs.


Numeracy means applying mathematics in different situations.

  • Being basically numerate at level 1–2 means being able to understand simple mathematical information in everyday situations and make use of simple calculations in known settings.

  • Being basically numerate at level 3 means being able to relate actively to mathematical information and use calculation in various settings.

  • Being basically numerate at level 4 means being able to understand and use complex mathematical information and use that knowledge to draw conclusions, communicate and present mathematical information.

Digital skills

Digital skills involve being able to use digital tools, media and resources efficiently and responsibly, to solve practical tasks, find and process information, design digital products and communicate content.

  • Having digital skills at level 1–2 means being able to relate digital information when required and use digital tools, and being familiar with simple precautions when using the Internet.

  • Having digital skills at level 3 means being able to relate actively to digital information and use this information in new settings and situations. Digital tools and services are known and being used.

  • Having digital skills at level 4 means being a reflective user of complex digital tools and services. Production of personal ICT-based information is adapted to the situation and based on prior experience.

Oral skills

Oral skills relate to creating meaning through listening and speaking.

  • Having oral skills at level 1–2 means being able to engage in simple communication in known settings. The main content of messages and instructions is comprehended and simple communication strategies are applied.

  • Having oral skills at level 3 means being able to communicate actively on topics of interest in known settings. Personal interests and needs in daily life can be fulfilled, and oral communication abilities can develop as needed.

  • Having oral skills at level 4 means being able to communicate flexibly and effectively in known as well as unfamiliar settings. The adult can engage in exchanges of opinion in public and private settings and assume responsibility for the communicative process.

Download the Competence Goals for Basic Skills

Download the Guidelines to the Competence Goals for Basic Skills

Through the use of these profiles, employers can get an overview of the skills that need to be strengthened and workers can increase their awareness about their need for further training in literacy, numeracy, oral communication and digital competence.

Creating own profiles

Below, you will find an English translation the profiles Vox has created in cooperation with various enterprises, organizations and teachers. The best profiles, however, are those that have been tailored to each individual situation, taking into account a concrete case and adapting them to each individual need. These examples are meant as an inspiration for course providers, who can develop their own adaptations to create courses that are really relevant to the needs of the participants.

Download the profiles and get inspired.

Basic job skills for bus drivers
Basic job skills for canteen assistants
Basic job skills for carpenters
Basic job skills for cleaners
Basic job skills for electricians
Basic job skills for forklift drivers
Basic job skills for heavy equipment operators
Basic job skills for HSE in the construction industry
Basic job skills for kindergarten assistants
Basic job skills for long distance transport workers
Basic job skills for personal care assistants
Basic job skills for plumbers
Basic job skills for premises technicians
Basic job skills for retail assistants
Basic jib skills for taxi drivers

Basic job skills for tinsmiths
Basic job skills for warehouse workers
Basic skills financial literacy


InterAct is a web-based modell based on role play and problem solving. The aim is to motivate for learning at work. The activity is relatively short-term (lasting 4–6 weeks), giving diverse learning outcomes and creating a starting point for more learning.

The model is developed in an international Leonardo project co-ordinated by Skills Norway. The objective of the project was to improve basic skills for employees with little formal education and low ICT skills.

Learning basic skills while serving time

This report is based on experience from basic skills training for inmates in Bastøy Prison in 2009. The daily work of the inmates was the focal point for the training.

In the report, you will find

  • examples of texts and numeracy questions from the inmates’ everyday life
  • examples of how to link the training to the inmates’ every day life
  • examples of how prison staff contributed to creating learning opportunities
  • an evaluation of how the participants’ identity and work relation influenced their motivation

Download the full report here (pdf)

National initiatives

The aim of the SkillsPlus is to give adults the opportunity to acquire the basic skills they need to keep up with the demands and changes in modern working life and civil society.

Funding and participation have increased every year since the programme was established in 2006. The number of participants who have received training now exceeds 30 000.

Programme priorities

The programme concentrates on reading, writing, numeracy, and digital skills. Commencing in 2014 the programme also includes oral communication in combination with other skills. Any enterprise in Norway, private and public, can apply for funding.

The following criteria have been emphasised:

  • the learning activity should be combined with work and basic skills training should preferably be linked to other job-relevant learning;

  • the courses should strengthen the participants’ motivation to go on learning;

  •  the courses have to relate to the competence goals expressed in our Framework for Basic Skills developed by Skills Norway and approved by the Ministry of Education and Research.

Special efforts are made to include SMEs in the programme and to encourage applications from industries which employ people with relatively low formal skills.


There is a range of training providers, including study associations as well as public and private providers. The providers are important stakeholders in the programme, and they often write the applications on behalf of the enterprises or in their own right, often as a training provider for a group of SMEs. Providers may apply for seed money to help them prepare good applications through meetings with companies, project planning, and motivation activities.

Data base

A data base has been established in order to supply up-to-date reports on the progress of the programme. The data base also includes detailed information on participants (gender, formal education, industry etc) and thereby makes it possible to monitor the activity and to ascertain whether it reaches the intended target groups. The data base will also make it easier to evaluate the long term impact of the Competenceplus.

Competence goals, tests, tools and teacher training

Competence goals, profiles for basic jobs skills, tests and educational tools have been developed to assure the quality of provision and to help providers in their task. Vox organises short courses for teachers of basic skills and provides grants for teachers who take further education in the teaching of basic skills.

A model for formal training for teachers who teach basic skills to adults was developed in close cooperation with pedagogical experts from training seminars, and in 2009/2010, the model was implemented in cooperation with teacher training institutes at universities and university colleges. The 30-credit training course comprises theoretical aspects as well as facilitating for learning, and is provided over two semesters as a distance learning course. The current course is running throughout the autumn term of 2013 and the spring term of 2014.

In addition to this, Skills Norway organizes annual series of one-day seminars for professional development, aimed at training providers in the practical application of the competence goals, and covering a wide range of methodological topics.

Skills Norway is currently supporting pilot projects in eight adult education centers across the country in the development of basic skills courses. A thorough documentation of all aspects of these projects is meant to encourage other adult education centers and local authorities to initiate similar training courses. By sharing experiences and best practices, we are aiming to increase the number of adults undertaking basic skills training in Norway.
Basic skills are not only the foundation for further learning but are necessary in order to be an active participant in working life and in society in general. Basic skills are essential to keep up with the needs in a rapidly evolving labour market in continuous demand for a qualified workforce. Provision of high quality training courses is key to increasing participation.

Pilot projects

Pilot projects are executed across the country, in Bergen, Molde, and Kristiansund on the West coast, Alstahaug and Rana in the North, Glåmdal in the East, and Sande and Tønsberg in the South. The project period is one year (2013).
The aim is to develop training courses independently of financial support in order to make them viable after the end of the project period. The local projects receive only a smaller amount to enable them to engage one person as a part time project coordinator. The money can also be used to develop suitable methods for training adults in basic skills. In addition to the financial support, Skills Norway provides teacher training and offers consulting to the education centers.


As part of the support  to the education centers, Skills Norway has made some guidelines on how to create effective training courses in basic skills. The guidelines give you helpful tips for setting up a successful training program, as well as advices on how to cooperate with other relevant local actors and recommendations for recruiting. The web page will be updated with new experiences from the eight pilot projects throughout the duration of the project period.

Measuring outcome and impact

Measuring impacts for the individual adult learner after completed training is an important part of the pilot projects. Improvements in learners’ self-confidence, self-esteem and personal capacity to effect change in their lives are the most common impacts for adults engaged in basic skills training. By using both qualitative and quantitative methods, Skills Norway will analyse the outcomes, effects and benefits for the individuals who have participated in the pilot projects.