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Assessing information literacy skills among young information age students in Singapore

Schubert Foo (Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
Shaheen Majid (Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
Yun Ke Chang (Department of Computer Information Science, Higher College of Technology, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)

Aslib Journal of Information Management

ISSN: 2050-3806

Article publication date: 15 May 2017




The purpose of this paper is to assess knowledge of Singapore Grade 5 (11 years old) students’ understanding and proficiency in basic information literacy (IL) skills of defining information tasks, selecting information sources, seeking information from sources and synthesising and using information.


A 38-item multiple-choice question assessment instrument was used to assess the students’ IL skills based on the i-Competent IL model. The instrument first developed in 2010 was refined and expanded to increase the robustness and accuracy of assessment for the study. It was administered to 17 primary schools in Singapore in November 2015. The maximum possible score of 54 was scaled up to 100 to report the overall mean score for ease of reference and comparison. A total of 2,399 returns were obtained and analysed using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences 22.0 to compute the mean scores, IL stage-level scores. The study also investigated for any significant differences in performance between male and female students, and students with or without access to the internet at home.


The students achieved an overall mean score of 53.39 which is below a recommended acceptable score of 60 or 70 advocated in a number of past studies. The two worst performing areas of IL skills were synthesising and using information and seeking information from sources with mean scores of 45.89 and 48.81, respectively. A review of the highest number of incorrect answers suggests that students had difficulty in identifying key information from an information task narrative, understanding the use of reference sources and role of librarians, distinguishing between a fact and opinion, and adopting the best strategy for searching. Girls outperformed boys with an overall mean score of 55.38 vs 51.50. Students with internet access at home fared better than those without access to it with a score of 53.67 vs 45.81. The overall poor results of the survey suggest an urgent need to review the IL education landscape in the Singapore school system, revisit polices, priorities and assess the relevance and effectiveness of the IL curriculum, practical hands-on classes, and interventions that are currently employed in schools.

Practical implications

The study helped identify areas of IL skills strengths and weakness among Grade 5 students in Singapore schools. It provides recommendations for follow up actions for education authority and schools to improve the situation.


This study was prompted to provide an assessment after a national IL initiative was launched in 2012 to inculcate IL skills among the school-going children as part of creating a value-driven education system. This is the first reported set of findings for a large-scale survey conducted to measure and ascertain the IL skills level among Grade 5 students.



Foo, S., Majid, S. and Chang, Y.K. (2017), "Assessing information literacy skills among young information age students in Singapore", Aslib Journal of Information Management, Vol. 69 No. 3, pp. 335-353.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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