How well adults can use printed and written information to function in society, to achieve their goals, and to develop their knowledge and potential is the definition of literacy. This definition was crafted by a panel of experts for the National Adult Literacy Survey and adopted for use by ETS in state, national and international surveys.
As society becomes more technologically advanced, the quantity and types of written materials are growing. Adults are expected to use information from these materials in new and more complex ways and to maintain and enhance their literacy skills through lifelong learning activities.
Literacy skills are critical not only for the personal achievement of individuals, but also for the social and economic development of each nation. These skills are no longer linked to a single threshold that separates the literate from the nonliterate.