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.