Northern Ireland fourth year pupils score high in world literacy study

The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) has found Northern Ireland fourth year pupils as one of the highest performing in the world.

PIRLS is an international assessment of student performance in reading literacy at the fourth grade. PIRLS measures students in the fourth year of formal schooling as this is typically when students’ learning transitions from a focus on ‘learning to read’ to a focus on ‘reading to learn’. A collaborative effort between participating countries and the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement , PIRLS is conducted every five years, with the latest results being published last month.

PIRLS provides a comprehensive picture of students’ reading literacy achievement, defined as follows: “Reading literacy is the ability to understand and use those written language forms required by society and/or valued by the individual. Readers can construct meaning from texts in a variety of forms. They read to learn, to participate in communities of readers in school and everyday life, and for enjoyment” (Mullis and Martin 2015, p. 12).

Northern Ireland was ranked joint sixth with Poland out of fifty countries, scoring 565 from an average score across the board of 500. This was just behind the Republic of Ireland at fourth with 567. England was joint eight with 559 (Scotland and Wales did not participate as part of the research).

The percentage of fourth-grade students reaching the PIRLS international benchmarks in reading for Northern Ireland were second-highest for the advanced level, with 22% of students (only Singapore scored higher). 70% of our students also scored high, and 94% intermediate.

Northern Ireland was also ranked fourth overall in pupils’ “purposes for reading and processes of comprehension”, rated on the ability to (1) focus on, and retrieve, explicitly stated information, (2) make straightforward
inferences, (3) interpret and integrate ideas and information, and (4) evaluate, and critique, content and textual elements.

The full report and finding can be read and downloaded from the United States’ National Centre for Education Statistics website.

(Source: ‘Reading Achievement of U.S. Fourth-Grade Students in an International Context’)

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