We’re proud to be working in partnership with Oxford University’s Centre for Educational Assessment to form England’s National Research Centre for the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2016.
Together, we’re supporting the implementation of PIRLS 2016 on behalf of the Department for Education, helping the schools selected from this country to take part in the study to provide a fully representative picture of reading achievement in England.
What is the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS)?
PIRLS is an assessment of reading comprehension that has been monitoring trends in pupil achievement every five years since 2001.
The study provides internationally comparative data on how well children from different countries are reading by the time they reach Year 5 – it represents the worldwide standard for reading comprehension after four years of primary schooling. PIRLS also gathers information about the ways that children are supported in learning to read at home and at school. 55 countries took part in PIRLS 2011. PIRLS 2016 will be the fourth assessment since 2001, looking at achievement over a 15-year period.
Why is PIRLS important to schools?
In a rapidly changing world, students’ ability to read and understand both digital and paper texts is the key skill for future academic success and employment. PIRLS examines students’ ability to read critically and make sense of different texts. It provides teachers, teacher educators, policy makers and researchers with information and analysis of how girls and boys perform, what kinds of reading strategies they use, and how their performance is linked to their interests, gender and background. PIRLS also includes a questionnaire for teachers, which gathers valuable information about their views on teaching children to read.
Why is PIRLS important to researchers?
Participating in PIRLS enables evidence-based decisions for educational improvement. High quality, internationally comparative data on pupil reading achievement is important for monitoring changes in the educational system. The study gives politicians, educators and the general public important information about how to support all children to develop reading strategies and skills for life.
Why is PIRLS important to policy makers?
PIRLS is a vital part of the international evidence base – the Department for Education uses it to benchmark England’s performance against other countries, to measure trends over time, to identify and analyse factors that impact pupil attainment, and to learn from policies and practices in other high-performing countries.
How is the information gathered by PIRLS used?
PIRLS outlines overall reading achievement for Year 5 pupils in a national report for each country. The results are provided according to four international benchmarks (advanced, high, medium, and low) and by two major reading purposes (literary and informational). Countries also get diagnostic item-level and summary information about student reading skills and strategies.
Having a well-documented international database provides opportunities for research both within and across countries. Participating countries use the national and international PIRLS results to:
- monitor system-level achievement trends in a global context
- establish achievement goals and standards for educational improvement
- stimulate curriculum reform
- improve teaching and learning through research and analysis of PIRLS data
- conduct related studies, such as monitoring equity or assessing pupils in additional years
- train researchers and teachers in assessment and evaluation.
In England, PIRLS results have been used to inform education policy and thinking in a number of ways:
- The link between enjoyment of reading and higher standards of reading literacy has been at the heart of campaigns to promote reading for leisure.
- Understanding links between pupil’s home environment, attitudes to reading and reading achievement, together with wider data, informs a range of policies like the pupil premium.
- Alongside other data, PIRLS shows that those pupils who have good literacy at age 10 have higher attainment in secondary school – evidence which supports the drive to raise standards in core curriculum subjects.
- Head teachers’ and teachers’ views on resources in school, factors affecting pupils, pedagogy and teaching practices are valued by research-engaged teachers and school leaders and form part of the education evidence-base.
Our work with Oxford University’s Centre for Educational Assessment is funded through a contract with the Department for Education. The PIRLS 2016 National Report will be published in 2017.
Find out more about the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study