Progress in International Reading Literacy Study
Parts of this article (those related to 2016) need to be updated.(May 2016)
The IEA's Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS)  is an international study of reading achievement in fourth graders. It is conducted by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). It is designed to measure children’s reading literacy achievement, to provide a baseline for future studies of trends in achievement, and to gather information about children’s home and school experiences in learning to read. PIRLS 2006 tested 215,000 students from 46 educational systems. PIRLS 2011(the most recent published cycle) testing results were published in December 2012. "The reading achievement results present each country with an opportunity to examine educational policies and practices against a globally-defined benchmark, while the report also contains rich information about children's early literacy experiences and reading instruction" (PIRLS International Study Directors, Ina V.S. Mullis and Michael O. Martin of Boston College.)
PIRLS  provides internationally comparative data on how well children read by assessing students’ reading achievement. PIRLS collects considerable background information on how education systems provide educational opportunities to their students as well as the factors that influence how students use these opportunities. These background data include information about the following: national curriculum policies in reading; how the education system is organized to facilitate learning; students’ home environment for learning; school climate and resources; and how instruction actually occurs in classrooms. Studies of reading literacy had been conducted prior to the PIRLS study of 2001, and PIRLS is the successor to IEA studies, such as the Reading Literacy Study, that started in 1970 and continued until 1991. The PIRLS study of 2001 started the trend for cyclical testing; PIRLS has a frequency of five years. By administering the test every five years, education systems are able to monitor their children's literacy achievement over time. The current cycle, PIRLS 2016, is the fourth cycle of the IEA PIRLS. Like the previous PIRLS cycles (conducted in 2001, 2006, and 2011), the study will also collect extensive information about home supports for literacy, curriculum and curriculum implementation, instructional practices, and school resources in each participating country.
The IEA Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2001 was the first cycle of assessments to measure trends in children's reading literacy achievement, and policy and practices related to literacy. The study examined three aspects of reading literacy: processes of comprehension, purposes for reading, and reading literacy behavior and attitudes. 35 countries took part in the first cycle where students enrolled in the fourth grade were assessed.
PIRLS 2006 assessed a range of reading comprehension strategies for two major reading purposes: literary and informational. The student test of reading comprehension addressed four processes:
- retrieval of explicitly stated information
- making straightforward inferences
- interpreting and integrating ideas and information
- examination and evaluation of content, language, and textual elements.
For the second cycle of the study 41 countries participated assessing students of grade four. PIRLS 2006 assessed students enrolled in the fourth grade.
Combining newly developed reading assessment passages and questions for 2011 with a selection of secure assessment passages and questions from 2001 and 2006, the study offered a state-of-the-art assessment of reading comprehension that allowed for measurement of changes since 2001. The international population for PIRLS 2011 consisted of students in the grade that represents four years of schooling, provided that the mean age at the time of testing was at least 9.5 years. In the 2011 cycle, prePIRLS (now known as PIRLS Literacy) was offered to assess basic reading skills as a bridge to PIRLS, for countries where most children are still developing fundamental reading skills at the end of the primary school cycle.
PIRLS 2016 also collects extensive information about home supports for literacy, curriculum and curriculum implementation, instructional practices, and school resources in each participating country. In this cycle there were two additional initiatives: (1) the PIRLS Literacy assessment (earlier known as prePIRLS) is equivalent to PIRLS in scope and reflects the same conception of reading as PIRLS. Its purpose is to extend the effective measurement of reading literacy at the lower end of the achievement scale. Countries whose fourth-grade students are still developing fundamental reading skills can participate in the PIRLS Literacy assessment and still have their results reported on the PIRLS achievement scale. The reading passages and questions in common between the PIRLS Literacy and the PIRLS assessments will enable the two assessments to be linked, and their results to be compared. (2) Initiated in 2016, ePIRLS is a computer-based reading assessment of students’ ability to acquire and use information when reading online. The assessment encompasses an engaging, simulated internet environment with authentic school-like assignments about science and social studies topics. The ePIRLS online reading achievement scale enables countries to examine their fourth-graders’ online reading performance relative to their performance on the PIRLS reading achievement scales.
PIRLS 2021 will be the fifth cycle in the PIRLS framework. IEA's PIRLS will continue to collect considerable background information from the assessed students, their parents, teachers and school principals on how education systems provide educational opportunities to their students, as well as the factors that influence how students use these opportunities. Trend results across assessments permit countries to monitor the effectiveness of their educational systems in a global context, and PIRLS 2021 marks 20 years of trends.
PIRLS 2021 evolves further from PIRLS 2016 in allowing countries to administer the full PIRLS reading assessment, including both PIRLS Informational and Literary (the previous standard PIRLS assessment), and the ePIRLS Online Informational (the previous ePIRLS), as one seamless digitally based endeavour. Countries may also select from two levels of the PIRLS assessment; providing students with an assessment experience better suited to their reading abilities increases student motivation and provides more accurate assessment data. All results will be reported on the same PIRLS achievement scale.
PIRLS 2021 thus offers three flexible options, enabling participants to select the administration path best suited to assessing their education system:(1) A new fully digital ePIRLS assessment, which integrates all aspects of PIRLS Informational, PIRLS Literary, and the ePIRLS Online Informational assessments; 2) The paper-only version of the PIRLS assessment, which is equivalent to the original pen-and-paper PIRLS standard assessment; and (3) The paper-only version of the PIRLS assessment, taken together with the ePIRLS Online Informational assessment. 
The PIRLS study consists of a main survey that consists of a written reading comprehension test and a background questionnaire. The PIRLS Reading Development Group (RDG) and National Research Coordinators (NRCs) from the participating countries collaborate to develop the reading assessments. The assessment focuses on three main areas of literacy: process of comprehension, purposes for reading, and reading behaviors and attitudes. The background questionnaire is used to determine the reading behaviors and attitudes. The written test is designed to address the process of comprehension and the purposes for reading. There are two purposes for reading that are examined in this study: reading for literary experience and reading to acquire and use information. Each student receives 80 minutes to complete two passages and then time to complete the survey. There are a total of 8 passage. Four passages are for each purpose of reading. "With eight reading passages in total, but just two to be given to any one student, passages and their accompanying items were assigned to student test booklets according to a matrix sampling plan. The eight passages were distributed across 10 booklets, two per booklet, so that passages were paired together in a booklet in as many different ways as possible." The PIRLS target population is the grade that represents four years of schooling, counting from the first year of ISCED Level 1, which corresponds to the fourth grade in most countries. To better match the assessment to the achievement level of students, countries have the option of administering PIRLS or PIRLS Literacy at the fifth or sixth grade.
- Home/Parents—This questionnaire includes questions about "students’ early reading experiences, child-parent literacy interactions, parents’ reading habits and attitudes, home-school connections,
and demographic and socioeconomic indicators."
- Students—This questionnaire includes questions about "instructional experiences, self-perception and attitudes towards reading, out-of-school reading habits, computer use, home literacy resources, and basic demographic information."
- Teachers—This questionnaire includes questions about "characteristics of the class tested, instructional activities for teaching reading, classroom resources, assessment practices, and about their education, training, and opportunities for professional development."
- Schools—This questionnaire includes questions about "enrollment and school characteristics, school organization for reading instruction, school staffing and resources, home-school connections, and the
- IEA with offices in Amsterdam and Hamburg
- International Study Center (ISC) at Boston College
- Statistics Canada
- Educational Testing Services in Princeton, NJ
- National Foundation for Educational Research in England and Wales (NFER) in the United Kingdom
- Reading Development Group (RDG)
|PIRLS 2001||PIRLS 2006||PIRLS 2011||prePIRLS 2011||PIRLS 2016||ePIRLS 2016|
|Argentina||Austria||Australia||Botswana||Argentina (Buenos Aires)||Canada|
|Belize||Belgium (Flemish)||Austria||Colombia||Australia||Chinese Taipei|
|Bulgaria||Belgium (French)||Azerbaijan||South Africa||Austria||Denmark|
|Canada (Ontario and Quebec)||Bulgaria||Belgium (French)||Azerbaijan||Georgia|
|Colombia||Canada (Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec)||Botswana||Bahrain||Ireland|
|Cyprus||Chinese Taipei||Bulgaria||Belgium (Flemish)||Israel|
|Czech Republic||Denmark||Canada (with Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec as benchmarking systems)||Belgium (French)||Italy|
|France||France||Colombia||Canada (with Ontario and Quebec as benchmarking systems)||Portugal|
|Greece||Germany||Czech Republic||Chinese Taipei||Slovenia|
|Hong Kong SAR||Hong Kong SAR||Denmark||Czech Republic||South Africa|
|Iran||Iceland||Finland||Egypt||United Arab Emirates (with Abu Dhabi and Dubai as benchmarking systems)|
|Lithuania||Kuwait||Hong Kong SAR||Germany|
|Macedonia||Latvia||Hungary||Hong Kong SAR|
|Russian Federation||New Zealand||Malta||Kazakhstan|
|Slovenia||Romania||New Zealand||Macao SAR|
|Sweden||Russian Federation||Northern Ireland||Malta|
|Slovak Republic||Poland||New Zealand|
|Trinidad and Tobago||Saudi Arabia||Portugal|
|Slovak Republic||Russian Federation (with Moscow as a benchmarking system)|
|Spain (with Andalusia as a benchmarking system)||Slovakia|
|Trinidad and Tobago||South Africa|
|United Arab Emirates (with Abu Dhabi and Dubai as benchmarking systems)||Spain (with Andalusia and Madrid as benchmarking systems)|
|United States (with Florida as a benchmarking state)||Sweden|
|Trinidad and Tobago|
|United Arab Emirates (with Abu Dhabi and Dubai as benchmarking systems)|
PIRLS 2016  is the fourth assessment in the current trend series, following PIRLS 2001, 2006, and 2011. Participating countries include: Argentina (Buenos Aires), Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belgium (Flemish), Belgium (French), Botswana, Bulgaria, Canada (with Ontario and Quebec as benchmarking systems), Chile, Chinese Taipei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, England, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Hong Kong SAR, Hungary, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lithuania, Malta, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain (with Andalusia as a benchmarking system), Sweden, Trinidad and Tobago, United Arab Emirates (with Abu Dhabi and Dubai as benchmarking systems), and United States. All of the countries, institutions, and agencies involved in successive PIRLS assessments have worked collaboratively in building the most comprehensive and innovative measure of reading comprehension possible, beginning in 2001 and improving with each cycle since then. PIRLS is directed by the TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center at Boston College.
PIRLS 2021  will be the fifth assessment, marking 20 years of trends. Country enrollment opened in 2017.
- An Overview of PIRLS 2006: Design, Results and Subsequent Analysis, Oliver Neuschmidt, IEA Data Processing and Research Center Ina V.S. Mullis and Michael O. Martin, TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center Boston College, http://www.iaea2008.cambridgeassessment.org.uk/ca/digitalAssets/180462_Neuschmidt.pdf