The PIRLS 2021 countries differ from one another in fundamental ways, including their education systems, and these differences are important to acknowledge when interpreting the PIRLS achievement results. The PIRLS 2021 Encyclopedia provides information about these differences and serves as a more qualitative companion to the PIRLS 2021 student achievement results. For PIRLS 2021, the Encyclopedia also includes information about the COVID-19 pandemic across countries. This important contextual information can be used by researchers, policymakers, and educators in conjunction with the PIRLS 2021 achievement results to inform education policy and curricula around the world.
Each cycle of PIRLS includes a curriculum questionnaire to collect background information about language/reading curricula and education policies from each country and benchmarking participant. Data from this questionnaire support the encyclopedia chapters by providing information about these topics in a format that is comparable across countries and benchmarking systems.
Complete data from the PIRLS 2021 curriculum questionnaire will be available for download in the PIRLS 2021 International Database.
The PIRLS 2021 countries are geographically and economically diverse, as shown in the following table Selected Characteristics of the PIRLS 2021 Countries. These data are taken primarily from the World Bank’s DataBank, a repository of databases that include a range of economic, education, and human development indicators.
The PIRLS 2021 countries vary widely in population size and geographic area. There is also some variation in life expectancy at birth, although this is 70 years or higher in all but one country. Economic indicators, such as the gross national income per capita (in US dollars), also show great variation across countries, ranging from 78,290 USD in Norway to 1,740 USD in Uzbekistan as of June 2022. With respect to public expenditure on education, countries spend anywhere from 2% (Bahrain) to 8% (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) of their gross domestic product (GDP). Enrollment in primary education is relatively high, with all of the PIRLS 2021 countries having an enrollment rate greater than 80%, and many having an enrollment rate greater than 95%.