‘The invention of counting: the statistical measurement of literacy in nineteenth-century England’

Vincent, David (2014). ‘The invention of counting: the statistical measurement of literacy in nineteenth-century England’. Comparative Education, 50(3) pp. 266–281.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/03050068.2014.921372

Abstract

This article examines the invention of counting literacy on a national basis in nineteenth-century Britain. Through an analysis of Registrar Generals' reports, it describes how the early statisticians wrestled with the implications of their new-found capacity to describe a nation's communications skills in a single table and how they were unable to escape their model of a society of isolated individuals divided into the literate and illiterate. The continuing influence of this approach is traced in the recent report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIACC).

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