From the moment when wide spread of large scale assessments in sociology and economics began, the most commonly used indicators of peoples' qualifications are the number of years spent in education and the possession of a high school/college/university diploma. But what if these formal indicators are unreliable under certain conditions and do not reflect actual literacy and competency of people? This article, drawing on data from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), questions accuracy of the basic educational indicators in Russia. There is a linear relationship between the possession of a formal graduation diploma and the measurement of PIAAC literacy of the able-bodied population in OECD countries, including the Eastern European ones. However, the analysis shows that in Russia there is an inconsistency between literacy and formal educational status. This fact in itself casts doubt on the effectiveness of formal education indicators in Russia. The social implications resulting from this inconsistency become apparent through an international comparison of research results. These ill effects have been documented in the areas of employment, education and social reproduction and in the social self-awareness of the Russian people.

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