Sun, 10 Dec 2023

An international survey of pupil achievement in reading shows that young people aged 9 -10 in Northern Ireland are amongst the best readers in the world.

Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2021

Data from the 2021 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) reveals that children from Northern Ireland significantly outperformed those in 52 of the 56 participating countries. Only young people in Singapore and the Republic of Ireland performed better than local pupils in the major international study.

The PIRLS study was carried out for the Department of Education by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER).

Department of Education Permanent Secretary, Dr Mark Browne said:

"The PIRLS report highlights that our primary school pupils continue to perform strongly in reading in 2021, and that our overall reading score has increased significantly compared to 2011 when our pupils first took part in PIRLS. 

"I am very pleased to note that almost a quarter of our pupils reached the Advanced International Benchmark. This was the third highest percentage internationally. I pay credit to all those primary school teachers and principals who worked so hard to make this happen. It is a fantastic achievement and demonstrates the strength of the primary curriculum and the high levels of attainment achieved by pupils in our primary schools."

PIRLS 2021 is the fifth in the series of comparative international surveys on reading achievement and has been administered on a five-yearly cycle since 2001. Northern Ireland participated for the third time in 2021 having previously participated in 2016 and 2011.

Mark Browne continued:

"Results from PIRLS show that our pupils' confidence in reading has remained high as in previous PIRLS cycles.

"The study also reveals parents in Northern Ireland reported one of the highest percentages of pupils that were often exposed to early literacy activities. This was much higher than the international average and highlights the crucial role parents and guardians play in helping to develop their children from an early age."

The full national report for PIRLS can be found here Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) | Department of Education (

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