Ontario Adult Literacy Survey (OALS)

Detailed information for Spring 1998




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The goal of the proposed study was to obtain a literacy profile for immigrants living in Ontario, in the reading of either English or French.

Data release - October 29, 1999


The goal of the proposed study was to obtain a literacy profile for immigrants living in Ontario, in the reading of either English or French. In particular, immigrants from the Caribbean with a mother tongue of English and immigrants with a mother tongue of Chinese, Polish, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian were profiled. Further, the study measured Ontario's immigrants' perceived skills in English or French and in their own mother tongue (if applicable) as well as perceived needs with regard to training and the barriers which may restrict access to such training.

Underlying this global objective was the need to:
- provide the Ontario government and service providers accurate and detailed information on the literacy skill levels of the targeted populations (e.g.: Ontario immigrants and specific sub-groups based on mother tongue) to ensure that tailored programs can be designed, or adjusted, to respond to their specific needs

- provide detailed information on the self-perceived skills, training needs and barriers to training for each target group as well as socio-demographic characteristics to ensure the design of cost-effective programs and training initiatives

The central element of the survey was the direct assessment of the literacy skills of Ontario immigrants using commonplace tasks of varying degree of difficulty drawn from a range of topic and knowledge areas. This information was supported by the collection of background information on respondents. In addition, the background questionnaire included questions on the self-assessment of literacy skills of respondents, on the training which the respondent has taken in the year previous to the survey and on the perceived barriers to realizing enhanced literacy skill levels.

Reference period: Spring 1998


  • Education, training and learning
  • Literacy

Data sources and methodology


This is a sample survey with a cross-sectional design.

Sample of households identified from the 1996 Census as containing at least one adult immigrant. One person per household is seleted by the interviewer using a Kish selection grid.

Data sources

Data collection for this reference period: 1998-04-08 to 1998-05-15

Responding to this survey is voluntary.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

Interviewers who regularly conduct the Labour Force Survey (LFS) were the majority of the interviewers employed for OALS. Due to the concentration of the sample in urban Ontario, additional interviewers were also hired and trained according to the LFS procedures. Hence, most of the data collection procedures used for the LFS were implemented for the OALS.

View the Questionnaire(s) and reporting guide(s) .


Total non-response was handled by adjusting the weight of households who responded to the survey to compensate for those who did not respond. Census numbers were used as control totals.

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any data which would divulge information obtained under the Statistics Act that relates to any identifiable person, business or organization without the prior knowledge or the consent in writing of that person, business or organization. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. Demographic information which could possibly be used to uniquely identify a survey participant must also be suppressed. Such variables include, for example, age, country of birth and income of an individual. For such variables, a range rather than the exact information, is provided for the individual. For example, instead of reporting a respondent's age as "16", it would appear on the Public Use microdata file as "16-25".

Data accuracy

Quality assurance measures were implemented at each step of the data collection and processing cycle to monitor the quality of the data. These measures included the use of highly skilled interviewers, extensive training of interviewers with respect to the survey procedures and questionnaire, observation of interviewers to detect problems of questionnaire design or misunderstanding of instructions, procedures to ensure that data capture errors were minimized and coding and edit quality checks to verify the processing logic.


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