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Best in Europe

International survey shows reading skills of Irish 4th class pupils are the highest in Europe


The 2016 PIRLS (the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) report published today shows Ireland’s primary school children are the best in Europe for reading skills.

PIRLS is an international study which examines fifty countries every five years and reports on the reading achievement of pupils in Fourth Class.

Among the key findings today are:

  • No country in Europe is better than Ireland for reading skills at primary level
  • Irish pupils’ overall reading achievement score has improved by 15 points since 2011
  • The gender gap in Ireland is smaller than that the gap internationally and has narrowed significantly since 2011
  • Since 2011, the number of pupils in Ireland with only basic reading skills has dropped significantly
  • The percentage of Irish pupils who have advanced reading skills rose from 16% in 2011 to 21% in 2016, which is much higher than the international average

Irish pupils also performed exceptionally well on the new online reading assessment in ePIRLS. Fourteen countries, including Ireland, also took part in a new component (ePIRLS), which assesses reading in an online environment.

Commenting on the report, the general secretary of the INTO Sheila Nunan said:

“These results are down to the tremendous professional work of high quality primary teachers. Since 2011 Irish children have been taught by a fully qualified professional teaching workforce that has driven this improvement. This is a major contributor to today’s outcomes.

However there is now a significant shortage of teachers and a rise in the number of people with no qualifications in Irish classrooms. The INTO is putting the Minister and the Department of Education and Skills on notice. These results cannot be sustained without a fully qualified workforce.

Pay inequality is driving teacher emigration and fuelling a teacher shortage here. This crisis must be resolved if Ireland is to remain top of the European class."

Country mean scores

PIRLS mean scores and standard errors, and position relative to the Irish mean and PIRLS centrepoint



ePIRLS mean scores and standard errors, and position relative to the Irish mean and PIRLS centrepoint


1 Means shown are based only on pupils who participated in both PIRLS and ePIRLS. They may differ slightly from means based on the full PIRLS dataset.   e.g., Irish PIRLS mean of 566 is based on the PIRLS score of the 2473 pupils who completed PIRLS and ePIRLS, not the total 4607 Irish pupils who completed PIRLS.

Ireland’s national report on PIRLS and ePIRLS 2016 here.


Date: Tuesday, 5 December 17