Canadian Reading Scores Fall in Latest International Scores

Blog Canadian Reading Scores Fall in Latest International Scores
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Canada is one of 10 countries to see a drop in reading scores in the latest round of international testing. This stat is all the more disheartening for two reasons:

  1. The overall trend internationally is one of improving literacy as 31 other countries in the 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) either maintained or increased their average reading scores.
  2. When it comes to having abundant resources for learning in the home, Canada actually ranks fifth in the world, behind only Finland and the three Scandinavian countries. This means that our sliding performance levels are happening despite Canadian children enjoying some of the most privileged home learning environments.

PIRLS has tested the reading achievement of fourth graders internationally every five years since 2001. Results of the 2016 study were released publicly on December 6, 2017 and tested more than 319,000 students from 61 countries. Scores were collected for Canada as an average, as well as for Ontario and Quebec separately.

On the PIRLS distribution of achievement Canada ranks 23rd out of 50 countries, though its Average Scale Score of 543 is significantly higher than the PIRLS Centerpoint (sic) of 500.

The data shows a downward trend for Canada as a whole and Ontario over the past five years; however, Quebec has shown an uptick in reading scores.

Girls continue to outperform boys both in Canada and around the world. However, in Canada, girls are not immune from the decline in achievement scores since 2011.

The findings of the study also support the existing body of knowledge, suggesting that children in grade 4 read well when they:

  • Participate in early literacy activities from a young age
  • Have a home environment that supports learning (and has lots of books)
  • Have parents who enjoy reading
  • Hold positive attitudes about reading themselves

Students who read print well also read well online.

More analysis to follow

There will likely be plenty of coverage in the national media in the days ahead. We will publish part two of this blog with a summary and analysis of the rest of the PIRLS data, which aligns with much of what Calgary Reads advocates around taking whole-school and community-wide approaches to improving reading outcomes, as well as the Calgary Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s “Early Warning! Calgary” report.


PIRLS 2016 Release (summary and videos)

PIRLS 2016 Download Centre (available section-by-section)


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