PISA 2018 Additional Analyses: Using PISA 2018 to inform policy: Learning from the Republic of Ireland

Neal Hepworth, Maria Galvis, Geeta Gambhir and Juliet Sizmur

20 May 2021

Research summary
    Comparative policy analysis: An insightful use of PISA data

The Republic of Ireland has a history of high reading scores in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).  Analysis from PISA 2018 shows that although the country has many cultural similarities to the four UK nations (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland), 15-year-old pupils in the Republic of Ireland achieved significantly higher scores for reading literacy than their counterparts in the UK.

NFER interviewed policy makers and education experts in the Republic of Ireland to develop an in-depth understanding of its policies, its history and to understand more about its perceptions on what impacts most on its higher performance in PISA reading. Comparing PISA results and policy history across the country and the four UK nations, the report draws out findings which provide potential lessons that could be applied more widely in the UK.

Key Findings

The report highlights two major, long-term policy initiatives, Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS, 2005) and the National Strategy (2011), that policy experts identified as  instrumental in driving reading improvement in the Republic of Ireland and contributing to the strong levels of basic literacy over many years.

Policy experts believed the key reasons for the success of these policies include:

  • stable, integrated, policymaking and meaningful collaboration with key stakeholders as part of ongoing policy development
  • more autonomy for schools to select from a range of interventions most appropriate to their own school context
  • reforms to teacher training and continued professional development (CPD) with and extra year of training and a focus on pedagogy
  • active engagement with families and the local community and provision of a range of linked outreach services that promote a strong culture that values reading and education more widely and a shared understanding of how to support learners
  • a long history of sustained policy that tackles educational disadvantage.

This report complements two previous reports using PISA 2018 additional analyses: