PIRLS 2021 International Results in Reading
School Composition, Resources, and Climate
Students Begin Primary Grades with Literacy Skills
To provide information about students’ foundation for formal reading instruction when they began school, PIRLS asked principals about how many students in the school have basic literacy skills (e.g., write the alphabet, write sentences) when they begin the primary grades—less than 25%, 25–50%, 51–75%, or more than 75%.
Exhibit 6.2 presents the average percentages of students attending schools with each of the four amounts of students having basic literacy skills when they begin primary school together with the students’ average reading achievement. The country-by-country results are ordered from highest to lowest according to the percentage of students in schools with “more than 75%” of students beginning with basic literacy skills, and there was considerable variation across countries. This variation might be related to a number of factors, such as students’ home SES, countries’ policies on preprimary school attendance, or the age of entry to primary school (see Curriculum Questionnaire results in the PIRLS 2021 Encyclopedia).
On average across countries, 26 percent of students were in schools where “more than 75%” of students begin the primary grades with literacy skills, 19 percent were in schools where “51–75%” of students begin with literacy skills, 22 percent were in schools where “25–50%” of students begin with literacy skills, and 33 percent were in schools where “less than 25%” of students begin with literacy skills.
In general, average reading achievement was higher for fourth grade students in schools where greater percentages of students begin primary school equipped with basic literacy skills. Students who attended schools where “more than 75%” of students begin the primary grades with basic literacy skills had the highest average achievement (511), followed by “51–75%” with basic literacy skills (503). Students in schools where fewer students begin school with basic literacy skills—“25–50%” and “less than 25”—had somewhat lower average reading achievement (495 and 491, respectively).