National and school level policies establish the reading curriculum. The extent to which the prescribed national reading curriculum is implemented in schools can be reflected in the school reading curriculum. In every assessment cycle, PIRLS collects data on schools’ reading curricula through the fourth grade by asking principals which grades specific reading skills and strategies are first emphasized at their school. These skills range from knowing letters of the alphabet to more advanced skills such as determining the author’s perspective or intention.
The amount of time that teachers have to teach the reading curriculum is a key factor in curriculum implementation. PIRLS results show countries vary in the intended instructional time prescribed by the curriculum and in the actual time of implementation in the classroom. Research has found instructional time to be related to student achievement,84 although this relationship may depend on how efficiently and effectively instructional time is used.85 Since 2001, PIRLS has collected data from teachers on the time spent on reading instruction across the curriculum, and began collecting data on language instruction in 2006. Additionally, instructional time at school and the instructional time prescribed by the language/reading curriculum are reported by principals and the PIRLS National Research Coordinators, respectively.