A survey released Tuesday morning shows adults in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut have fallen behind Yukon and other provinces in terms of literacy and numeracy.

The Northwest Territories ranked 12th out of the 13 Canadian provinces and territories on an international survey compiled by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development. 

Nunavut ranked last among Canadian jurisdictions.

The Northwest Territories Department of Education says this was the most comprehensive study ever done on adults 16 to 65.


Residents of the N.W.T. and Nunavut lag behind Canadian averages for literacy and numeracy, while Yukon scores in the middle of the pack.

"This is not new information for us, but at least it's [an] accurate, viable baseline from which to grow," said Rita Mueller, the department's spokesperson.

The survey collected data from 27,000 Canadians including more than 900 residents from 13 communities across the Northwest Territories.

"There's some significant changes of how we're delivering education that we need to make, and this at least gives us that evidence … to make those kinds of appropriate changes," Mueller said.

As a whole, Canadians performed at about the average level among OECD nations, which are more than 30 of the world's leading developed economies. The report gave the average Canadian a literacy score of 273.

But across all age groups, Northwest Territories residents lagged their Canadian and international counterparts.

N.W.T. residents between the ages of 16 and 24 with less than a university education got an average literacy score 19 points worse than the Canadian average. Internationally, they fared worse still — 25 points lower.

But N.W.T. residents with post-secondary education scored as well as or better than the Canadian average.

The report also found that aboriginal and non-aboriginal people with similar levels of education had roughly equal literacy and numeracy levels.

Yukon scores higher

The numbers in the N.W.T and Nunavut may be low but Yukon fared comparatively better — right in the middle of pack.

"We can all be pretty proud, we've shown a good standing as far as our place in Canada is concerned," says Moira Sauer, communications director for the Yukon Literacy Coalition. "There's some pretty impressive numbers for Yukon out there and I think we can really look forward to … improving right across the board."

Rita Mueller says this new information will allow the three territories to develop better working relationships with educators, to figure out how they can improve basic adult literacy and numeracy programs across the North.