Results for Reading Purposes – Relative Achievement – PIRLS 2021

PIRLS 2021 International Results in Reading

Relative Achievement in Reading Purposes and Comprehension Processes

Relative Achievement in Reading Purposes

Young students read for a wide variety of reasons and encounter a wide variety of texts with different content and in different formats. However, whether their reasons for reading are for interest, entertainment, or learning, much of the reading done by young students both in and out of school can be broadly described as either reading stories (with a plot and characters often in a narrative structure) or reading materials that provide information. As young students develop their literacy skills and are increasingly required to read to learn across the curriculum, reading to acquire information could become more frequent.

The International Benchmarks section of the report includes a description of the texts used to assess the literary and informational purposes, as well as videos of example texts and items.

Exhibits 3.1 and 3.2 show relative average achievement in literary and informational purposes in comparison to average achievement overall. Starting at the top of the exhibits, the results are organized according to the extent that countries had relatively higher achievement in the informational purpose (and lower in literary) compared to their overall achievement, followed by countries with little difference in achievement between the two purposes in the middle of the exhibit, and countries with relatively higher achievement in the literary purpose (and lower in informational) compared to their overall achievement at the bottom.

Exhibit 3.1 shows only the results for the 43 countries and 5 benchmarking participants that assessed PIRLS 2021 at the end of the fourth grade school year. However, this discussion about relative strengths and weaknesses in reading literary texts compared to strengths in weaknesses in reading informational texts will be based on Exhibit 3.2 which presents the results for all 57 countries and 8 benchmarking entities that participated in PIRLS 2021, including the 14 countries and 3 benchmarking entities that needed to delay data collection until the beginning of the fifth grade and have comparably older students (half a year older on average, highlighted in pink).

Looking at the top of the exhibit under the informational column, the data show that 9 countries had higher relative achievement (at least 2 score points) based on the informational materials than on the PIRLS 2021 assessment as a whole. Although three East Asian countries, Macao SAR, Hong Kong SAR, and Chinese Taipei had differences from overall reading ranging from 6 to 12 scale score points, most of the differences were rather small (1 to 4 points).

The lower portion of the exhibit shows that 18 countries had a relative strength in the literary purpose, nearly double the number with a relative strength in the informational purpose. Also, by means of the differences being defined relative to the overall, a relative strength in the literary purpose will often be accompanied by a relative weakness in the informational purpose. Twenty-three of the 57 countries in Exhibit 3.2 had both a relative strength in one purpose and a relative weakness in the other, while 11 countries had only a relative strength or a weakness in one purpose.

Many countries (23) did not display a relative strength or weakness in reading achievement for either purpose. However, the prevalence of relative strength in the literary purpose is consistent with a reading curriculum that begins with stories in the early grades and then transitions to reading about science, history, and geography as students move to the upper grades.