There has been a "slowing in the rate of progress" in literacy and numeracy targets, an official from the Department of Education told MLAs on 31 May 2012.
Addressing members of the education committee, Adrian Arbuthnot explained that, although trends over the past six years showed improvements, there had been a slow down in the speed of change.
He explained the two key literacy and numeracy targets set out in the programme for government.
Mr Arbuthnot said the first related to raising achievement levels of pupils achieving five or more GCSEs with A*-C grades, including English and Maths, to 66% by 2014/15 and 70% by 2020.
He said the latest figures for 2010/11 showed achievement was currently at 59.5%
The official said these also showed the performance by girls was almost a tenth higher than boys, although the rate of increase for boys was quicker.
The second programme for government target was to increase those from disadvantaged backgrounds achieving the same number of grades to 49% by 2014/15, he explained.
"Those who attend non-grammar schools achieve well below acceptable levels," Mr Arbuthnot said.
Education committee chairman, Mervyn Storey of the DUP, asked if the Department of Education's policies had contributed to the slow down "as figures were nearly better before their introduction".
Mr Arbuthnot defended the policies and said those which had been introduced were proven by international standards to be the most effective in raising literacy and numeracy standards.
His colleague Dr Chris Hughes said 17% of children had not reached adequate levels of literacy and numeracy when leaving primary school.