PIRLS is a worldwide research project that takes place every five years and looks at trends in children's reading literacy achievement over time. It assesses the knowledge and skills of pupils aged 9 to 10 around the world and it enables researchers to collect extensive background information about pupils’ home and learning environments and the quantity, quality and content of their teaching.

As it provides comparisons with many other countries, it is an important indication of the success of the Department of Education’s progress in raising standards of reading. The information gathered can be used to provide educational policymakers, school leaders, teachers and researchers with powerful insights into how educational systems are functioning. It also gives us information about the strategies used to teach reading and possible ways to improve teaching and learning of reading literacy for pupils around the world.

The PIRLS assessments are designed to reflect the skills children need when reading for different purposes and to explore the different processes they use as they try to understand what they read.

PIRLS focuses on two main purposes for reading:

  • reading for literary experience
  • reading to acquire and use information.

It also examines four main comprehension processes of reading. These are the abilities to:

  • focus on and retrieve information explicitly stated in text
  • make straightforward inferences from a text, understanding parts of a text that are not stated
  • interpret and integrate ideas and information
  • examine and evaluate content, language and features of texts.

The national report for Northern Ireland provides the findings from the PIRLS 2016 survey, including:

  • comparative data showing pupils’ achievement against that of other countries
  • data showing Northern Ireland’s achievement compared with 2011
  • 'benchmark' data describing the achievement of pupils at differing levels of attainment
  • contextual information about characteristics of the national education systems, schools, teachers and pupils and their homes
  • relationships between contextual characteristics and achievement.

More information is available in the PIRLS Assessment framework.

PIRLS 2016 International Report

NFER Quality Assurance

For the assessments to be comparable across different countries, it is really important that strict international standards are met. These relate to how participating schools are selected, how the tests and questionnaires are translated and how they are administered in schools. All modern international surveys are conducted to high standards of quality control and quality assurance and procedures are closely scrutinised by international referees.