PIRLS (Progress in International Literacy Study) is a project 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, which is chaired by the Department of Education and includes representatives from the main education stakeholders.
PIRLS assesses the reading achievement of pupils in Fourth grade (equivalent to Fourth class, in Ireland). First conducted in 2001, PIRLS takes place every five years. Ireland participated for the first time in PIRLS in 2011. In 2016, Ireland participated again, and was also one of 14 countries to administer a new “add-on” assessment of digital literacy, called ePIRLS.
The most recent cycle of PIRLS took place in 2021, following a field trial in spring 2020. Due to the disruptions to schooling caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the PIRLS testing in Ireland and a number of other countries was postponed until autumn 2021 rather than spring 2021, and involved pupils who were at the start of Fifth class.
Ireland had planned to administer PIRLS on computer in 2021. However, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ireland instead opted for paper-based testing. Unfortunately, the decision to opt for paper-based testing meant that Ireland could not participate in the ePIRLS component of the test in this cycle, as ePIRLS passages were integrated into the PIRLS rotation for countries administering the test on computer.
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 frameworks developed collaboratively with the participating countries. The frameworks specify in some detail the knowledge, skills, and understandings to be assessed.
The results of PIRLS 2021 were published on 16 May 2023 and the national report for Ireland can be downloaded here.
A contextual report, which will explore pupils’ experiences and factors associated with achievement in more detail, is in preparation and will be published in 2024.