PIRLS 2021 Highlights COVID-19-Related Reading Disruptions

The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2021 monitored approximately 400 thousand fourth-grade students from 57 countries, including  Morocco, Portugal, Spain, and Egypt, between 2020 and 2021 to assess their reading skills.

Based on four international benchmarks, low, intermediate, high, and advanced, The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2021 was able to successfully collect data during the pandemic disruption through an innovative digital assessment with 23 vivid and engaging texts.

The study showed that there was nearly Universal literacy in the 43 countries that managed to collect achievement data on time, with 94% or more students reaching the low benchmark, signifying that they could read straightforward material, while  36% of students reaching the high benchmark demonstrated the ability to interpret a variety of relatively difficult material.

PIRLS 2021 also noted that girls had higher reading achievements in 51 out of the 57 countries relevant to this study, further noting that nearly 50% of the students attended schools where normal classes were disrupted for two months or more.

The study conducted a comparison of the achievement trends that took place between 2016 and 2021, noting that the 2016 positive trends stalled or reversed in 2021 due to COVID-19 negative impact on education.

“Considering the PIRLS 2021 trend measures, it is well established that the COVID-19 pandemic, which happened after the 2016 cycle, made a major difference in school based learning in many countries between 2016 and 2021,” explained the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study 2021 (PIRLS) in its report. 

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