When the first global survey of adult skills was published last year, it uncovered deep disparities in performance, with the UK lagging far behind the top-ranked countries.
But high-performing Norway, whose adult population (16- to 65-year-olds) scored significantly above average in literacy and numeracy, has now turned to the UK for help in engaging its young adults in education.
Norway was one of only three countries (alongside England and Cyprus) where the literacy of 16- to 24-year-olds was worse than for adults overall. But Norwegian educators are impressed with how the system in the UK engages some of the hardest-to-reach young people through community learning projects.
"We know we need to do something with this group of young adults," Jan Ellertsen, director of Vox, the Norwegian government agency for lifelong learning, told TES. "But when it comes to increasing levels of basic skills in the adult population this takes a long time. We have systems for doing this but they don't seem to have the expected effects."
Last month representatives from Vox visited the UK, which has a relatively higher adult education participation rate than other European countries, to learn from its approach.
Mr Ellertsen said the visit made him realise that Norway must reach out to its low-skilled adults. "If we want to deal with this problem we need to be more proactive, to go out and find the adults and bring them in to some kind of training," he said.
Joyce Black, head of the Centre for Life Skills at UK adult education body Niace, said: "The Norwegians were particularly interested in our community learning system, especially the challenges of isolated communities and how to engage the most reluctant people in skills training."