Mixed results in student report
Irish primary pupils have performed well in a major international test in reading but the results in maths and science are much less encouraging.
In reading, Ireland ranked 10th out of 45 countries with only five countries performing significantly better. These were Hong Kong, Singapore, Finland, Russia and Northern Ireland.
In maths, Irish pupils came in 17th out of 50 countries. Irish pupils were strong on numbers but performed less well on shapes and measures and reasoning.
In science, Ireland is in 22nd out of 50 countries.
Overall, Ireland is not ranked among the top performing countries in any of the three tests.
The results show a gender gap in reading, with girls outperforming boys, but this is less evident in maths and science.
The results will raise fresh questions about the amount of time devoted to maths and science in primary schools.
Only about 4 per cent of all curriculum time at primary level is allocated to science, one of the lowest figures in the developed world.
The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study tested primary school pupils in the equivalent of fourth class in reading, mathematics and science in over sixty countries. The pupils who took part were, on average, just over 10 years old.
Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn congratulated Irish pupils and teachers on the good results that they had achieved.
“I welcome the fact that Irish students are performing above average in all three tests and especially in reading,” he said. “However, we cannot be complacent. In all three tests, pupils in a number of countries are performing significantly above the performance of Irish students.”
Mr Quinn said it was the first time international comparisons in reading, maths and science have been available at primary level and that, while encouraging, they demonstrate the issues the Government is seeking to tackle with its Literacy and Numeracy Strategy.
“We need to build on the good work in reading going on at primary level into second level, especially at junior cycle. Clearly, we also need to improve our teaching of mathematics and science at all levels,” the Minister said.
INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan said the results showed, while there was no room for complacency, there were significant strengths in Irish primary education.
She said in particular Irish teachers can be proud of efforts made to tackle educational disadvantage and improve literacy levels. Only 3 per cent of Irish pupils failed to reach the low benchmark level in reading compared to 5 per cent internationally.