Best Practice

Literacy: What can we learn from PIRLS?

Fifty countries took part in the most recent Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), the world-wide study of reading at ages 9 and 10. Rachel Classick looks at some key findings from England and Northern Ireland and what lessons we can learn

PIRLS, directed by the International Association for the Evaluation of Education Achievement (IEA), assesses the reading skills of pupils and gathers extensive background information about pupils’ learning environments at school and at home every five years.

In the latest survey carried out in 2016, with results published in December 2017, more than half a million pupils took part worldwide, including those from England and Northern Ireland, providing a rich source of information. Powerful insights emerge into how well education systems are functioning internationally and how teaching and learning of reading can be improved.

The good news is that Northern Ireland and England were among the top performers in PIRLS 2016. The countries with the highest reading scores worldwide were the Russian Federation and Singapore. These were the only countries who significantly outperformed Northern Ireland and only seven countries scored significantly higher than England. Northern Ireland scored similarly to the Republic of Ireland, Finland and Poland, while England was on a par with Norway, Taiwan and Latvia.

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