Progress in International Reading Literacy Study
PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) assesses the reading achievement of Fourth-class pupils. First conducted in 2001, PIRLS takes place every five years. The 2011 cycle was the first time that Ireland took part in PIRLS.
PIRLS is conducted under the auspices of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), and is managed at an international level by the International Study Center in Boston College. Within each participating country, a National Research Centre manages the study. In Ireland, this role is filled by the Educational Research Centre. The Centre is supported in this work by a National Advisory Committee, chaired by the Department of Education and Skills, and with representatives from the main education stakeholders.
A major purpose of PIRLS is to provide background information that can be used to improve teaching and learning. For example, the study collects detailed information about curriculum and curriculum implementation, instructional practices, and school resources. The assessment is based on comprehensive assessment frameworks developed collaboratively with the participating countries. The frameworks specify in some detail the knowledge, skills, and understandings to be assessed.
The IEA is also responsible for TIMSS (Trends in Mathematics and Science Study). In 2011, the cycles for PIRLS and TIMSS coincided for the first time, giving countries the opportunity to take part in one or both assessments. Of the 49 countries took part in PIRLS in 2011, 34 – including Ireland – also took part in TIMSS.
The initial Irish report on the 2011 cycles was published in December 2012 (Eivers & Clerkin – PIRLS and TIMSS 2011: Reading, mathematics and science outcomes for Ireland) and a set of thematic analyses of the Irish data was published in 2013 (Eivers & Clerkin – National Schools, international contexts). A year after each assessment, the International Study Center publishes a report on the main results. The main international results for PIRLS 2011 were published in December 2012. As some countries assessed the same pupils in PIRLS and TIMSS 2011, an additional international report, analysing the relationship between performance across the three domains of reading, mathematics and science was published in October 2013.
Both the field trial and main data collection phases for PIRLS 2016 have now been completed in Ireland. A new feature of the 2016 cycle was a digital component, called e-PIRLS, which complemented the PIRLS paper-based assessment of reading literacy.