PIRLS 2001

The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2001 is the first in a cycle of studies that gave 35 participating countries the opportunity to gather baseline reading literacy achievement data as well as providing countries a chance to compare their students' achievement in reading literacy relative to that of students in other countries.

Key Facts : PIRLS 2001

When:      2001.

Who:         2,500 Year 5 students.

What:       Reading Literacy.

How:        Conducted under the auspices of the IEA; managed internationally by Boston College; and managed within New Zealand by the
                     Ministry of Education.

Where:    35 countries in 2001.


This cycle also provided nine countries participating in PIRLS 2001, including New Zealand , the opportunity to undertake a replication of the 1990-1991 IEA Reading Literacy Study, known as the Trends in IEA's Reading Literacy Study. This study involved an additional 1200 Year 5 students, and was a one-off opportunity to make links back to the 1990-1991 study.

The international results for both PIRLS 2001 and the Trends Study were released in April 2003, and two New Zealand national reports and two summaries of key national findings were released subsequently. The IEA had also released the PIRLS 2001 Encyclopedia in 2002 which is a reference guide to reading education in the countries participating in PIRLS.

Key Findings

The following are the key findings from PIRLS 2001:

  • The mean reading score for New Zealand Year 5 students was 529, significantly higher than the international average of 500.
    • The mean score for your Year 5 students was similar to students in seven countries including the Czech Republic, Scotland, Singapore, and France.
  • The range of scores for New Zealand was wider than the range for most other higher-performing countries.
    • The range between the lowest achieving Year 5 students and the highest achieving Year 5 students, as measured by the difference between the 5th and the 95th percentiles, was 308. This was large compared with most other high-performing countries, although England (290) and Singapore (310) had a similarly large spread.
  • Seventeen percent of our students achieved scores above 615 this being the international Top 10% benchmark; 35 percent achieved scores above 570 this being the Upper Quarter (or top 25%) benchmark.
    • Only four countries - England, Bulgaria, Sweden, and the United States - recorded a higher proportion of students achieving above 615, the international Top 10% benchmark.
  • Sixteen percent of our students achieved scores below 435, this being the international Lower Quarter (bottom 25%) benchmark.
    • The proportion of New Zealand students achieving a score lower than this benchmark (435) was relatively high compared with four percent of Swedish students, 10 percent of English students, and 11 percent of students from the United States.

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