PIRLS – some observations

It must be just the time of year but a plethora of international acheivement data is being made available in matter of a few weeks.

The most recent of these is the Progress in International Literacy Study 2006 PIRLS you can download the entire report from here but beware it’s 63mb and takes along time to download.

I’ve taken a look specifically at Scotland’s data and here are some of my observations. 

The PIRLS assessment tests children’s reading ability typically at the end of their fourth year of primary schooling, in  Scotland it’s the fifth as we tend to start one year earlier than most other countries.  The average age of Scottish pupils taking the test was 9.9 years of age which was actually younger than the age of children taking the test in most other countries.

The PIRLS average was 500 points and the Scottish score was 527 – 26th place out of 40.  The top three countries were Russia (565), Singapore (564) and Canada, Alberta (560). Scotland’s score was virtually identical to the last time the test was done in 2001 (528) – down 1 point, whereas some countries had changed their systems in response to the 2001 results and made significant progress, e.g  Russia + 37 and Singapore + 30, England had dropped -13 points.

Gender is a significant issue in terms of reading attainment across the world with girls scoring on average 17 points higher than boys, in Scotland girls scored 22 points higher than boys. Yet in Luxembourg the difference is only 3%, whilst a very large country such as the U.S it’s only 10%.  Scotland is also moving in the wrong diraction with the difference increasing by 3% in girls favour, whilst globally the gap has closed by 5%. 

The average class size was 24, Scotland’s was 26, Singapore was 38 and in Russia the average was 22.

There was some very fascinating data presented about the classroom organisation of students. Whole class reading was a feature of 35% of world classrooms whilst only a feature of 6% of Scottish classrooms; whereas only 8% of global classrooms used same- ability groupings, whilst it was a feature of 54% of Scottish classrooms, a figure only surpassed by New Zealand. In the top five countries only 5% of classrooms had same ability groupings.

Parents reading for enjoyment showed Scotland to be in the top 3 countries in the world at 63%.

Pupil’s positive attitude to reading Scotland has fallen  (- 5%) with only 42 % of children being very positive about reading against a global average of 49%.

Scottish pupils reading stories or novels outside school has also dropped – 5% to 35% just above the global average of 32%.

Only 33% of Scottish pupils said they read for fun outside school, the global average being 40% – there appeared quite a significant correlation between those countries who scored high for reading for fun outside school and teading attainmant.

25% of international classrooms have reading taught for more than 6 hours per week.  In Scotland the figure was 12% – a drop of -2% from 2001, whereas most other countries have seen an increase.

56% of international classrooms have reading featuring as a daily activity, in Scotland it’s 44%

Whole class teaching takes up 57% of the week in intenational classrooms – in Scotland it’s 44%

 13% of Scottish children were reported to need “remedial” (sic) instruction in reading, the international  figure was 17%.

Only 6% of Scottish teachers reported that gave the pupils a quiz about reading on a weekly basis, wheras the international figure was 26%.

I’ve picked out the main discrepancies between Scotland and international comparators – I’m convinced there are some important lessons to be taken from this research.

1 thought on “PIRLS – some observations

  1. I must be a complete anorak as I find all of this completely fascinating. It would be interesting to compare some of these national statistics to East Lothian specifically. Is such data compiled?

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