The International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey (IALSS) is one of the most recognized international literacy surveys. The 2003 version of the survey was conducted in seven countries (Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States). In Canada, the 2003 survey also identified a number of target populations including urban Aboriginal peoples in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Figure 44: Prose Literacy Distribution (2003)

Data show that First Nations have much lower educational attainment than their counterparts in Alberta and Canada. Literacy levels are also lower among First Nations.

Comparable data are not available for First Nations in Alberta, however, as the educational attainment data for First Nations in Alberta are quite similar to those of First Nations in Saskatchewan (see Figure 39), the results would probably not vary significantly from the Saskatchewan results.

The International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey uses a five-point scale. At Level 1, an individual would have very limited abilities to locate, understand and use information. For this survey, the benchmark for the minimum level of literacy proficiency that is needed for an individual to successfully cope in today’s complex knowledge and information-based society is defined as Level 3.

Figure 44 indicates that 70 per cent of urban First Nations in Manitoba and Saskatchewan did not achieve Level 3, compared to roughly 40 per cent of the non-Aboriginal population in the two Prairie provinces. Figure 44 also shows that a much higher proportion of First Nations than non-Aboriginal individuals are at Level 1.