School Discipline

Schools with disciplinary issues can experience problems with bullying, classroom disturbance, and truancy. The sense of security that comes from having a stable school environment with few behavioral problems and little or no concern about student or teacher safety is conducive to student learning. Research shows that schools where rules are clear and enforced fairly tend to have atmospheres of greater discipline and safety.70,71 In past PIRLS assessments, students in schools with hardly any discipline problems had higher reading achievement than students in schools with disciplinary problems. PIRLS has gathered data on school discipline since 2001, and now includes the School Discipline scale developed in 2011. The scale summarizes principals’ reports on school discipline based on the degree to which schools have issues with student conduct ranging from intimidation or verbal abuse among students to student cheating.

Safe and Orderly School

School effectiveness research analyzing PIRLS/TIMSS 2011 data has shown that school safety is an important prerequisite for student achievement in many countries.72 Respect for individual students and teachers, a safe and orderly environment, and constructive interactions among administrators, teachers, parents, and students all contribute to a positive school climate and are associated with higher student achievement.73,74,75 Together the School Discipline scale reported by principals and the Safe and Orderly School scale reported by teachers gather information on safe schools. Teachers are asked to indicate the extent to which they agree or disagree with various statements on school safety, including whether they feel safe at the school and if they believe school rules are enforced in a fair and consistent manner.


Bullying is repeated aggressive behavior that is intended to intimidate or harm the victim and takes a variety of forms, both mental and physical. Bullying causes distress to victims, leads to low self-esteem, and makes victims feel like they do not belong.76,77,78 Previous PIRLS reports have shown that bullied students tend to have lower reading achievement, aligning with findings of other research.79,80,81

PIRLS began collecting data on student bullying in 2001. It developed the student bullyingscale in 2011, based on students’ reports of how often they experience various bullying behavior ranging from being made fun of to being physically hurt. With the prevalence of the internet and cyberbullying, the Student Bullying scale was expanded in 2016, and again for 2021. Cyberbullying behaviors include being sent nasty or hurtful messages or having nasty or hurtful information shared online. Like other forms of bullying, cyberbullying is associated with low self-esteem, distress, and poor achievement.82,83