Ireland’s 10-year-olds have ‘best reading skills in Europe’

Minister for Education pays tribute to teachers and parents for ‘fantastic’ results

Ireland’s 10-year-olds have been ranked as having the  best reading skills in Europe and among the top-performers in the world, according to a new  international study. Photo: iStock

Ireland’s 10-year-olds have been ranked as having the best reading skills in Europe and among the top-performers in the world, according to a new international study. Photo: iStock

 

Ireland’s 10-year-olds have the best reading skills in Europe and among the top-performers in the world, a major new international study shows.

The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (Pirls) examined reading skills among hundreds of thousands of fourth class pupils across 50 countries last year.

The results, released on Tuesday morning, show Irish pupils’ overall reading achievement scores have improved significantly since the last study in 2011.

It found the number of pupils in Ireland with basic reading skills has dropped, while the proportion of pupils with advanced reading skills has risen to a new high.

Some 21 per cent of children in Ireland are classed as "advanced" readers, compared to an average of 10 per cent internationally.

Only two countries rank significantly higher than Ireland: Russia and  Singapore.

They are followed by a group of five countries with broadly similar results, including Hong Kong and Ireland, Finland, Poland and Northern Ireland.

A total of 43 other countries have significantly lower scores, such as Norway, Chinese Taipei, England, the US, Australia and Germany.

Ireland’s results also show boys are catching up with girls in terms of reading skills, with the gap narrowing significantly between 2011 and 2016.

They also performed exceptionally well on a new online reading assessment linked to the study.

Only one other country - Singapore - outperformed Ireland on this test.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said he was delighted with the “fantastic” outcomes and paid tribute to “all principals, teachers and all those who made these fantastic results possible”.

“I have set the ambition to make Ireland’s education and training service the best in Europe by 2026,” he said.

“There are many aspects to achieving this ambition but few are more important than the ability of our education system to equip our children with exceptional literacy skills.

“I am delighted with the results of this internationally recognised, in-depth study, which shows that no country in Europe is better than Ireland for reading performance at primary level.

Mr Bruton said a 10-year national literacy and numeracy strategy appeared to have played a key role in boosting training for teachers, reforming teaching approaches and self-evaluation.

Parents have also played a key role, he said, through growing involvement in placing a big focus on children’s literacy and numeracy in the home.

Lorraine Gilleece, one of report’s authors, said a positive feature of the results was that improvements in performance since 2011 were spread across a range of areas. “We see improvements on all aspects of reading and types of texts, and both boys and girls have improved,” she said.

“Also, in Ireland boys have slightly narrowed the gender gap on what we call ‘literary style’ texts. Perhaps contrary to popular perception, boys here are well able to engage with and to enjoy literary texts.”

Eemer Eivers, another of the report’s authors, said the results of the online reading assessment were a positive sign at a time where ever-more information is in digital form.

“This is the first assessment of its kind at primary level and it is encouraging to see that most Irish pupils had little or no difficulty navigating through the complex online scenarios they encountered,” she said.

“Equally, they seem able to evaluate information in a digital environment - for example, identifying the more reliable sources of information and integrating information from multiple web pages.”