New Zealand Year 5 students’ reading literacy achievement dips for the first time in 15 years

The latest Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2016 has shown that New Zealand Year 5 students, for the first time in 15 years, have decreased in their performance in reading literacy.

We still don’t have enough information to know whether this is linked to any specific causes. There are likely to be a range of complex factors behind this. These findings flag a need for us to explore the data more deeply, and also to look to relevant high-performing countries to understand what they are doing.

We also need to be cautious about interpreting this as a trend. A number of other countries have experienced dips in their scores and then risen in the next or subsequent assessment. England for example dipped 15 points between 2001 and 2006 and then rose again in 2011. The US and Sweden have swung too. Sweden was a top performer in 2001 with a mean score of 561, dipped to low of 542 and came back to 555 in 2016. New Zealand was sitting at 531 in 2011 and is now at 523.

Over the past few years, we have put a number of literacy initiatives in place including PLD and will be monitoring these for effectiveness.

Reassuringly, there has been no change from PIRLS 2011 to PIRLS 2016 in terms of Year 5 students’ reading and their engagement in reading. However, they have rated themselves more poorly for confidence in their reading ability compared with their international peers. Though there is no suggestion that this is the reason for the dip, we need to understand why this is low as confidence and achievement are closely linked.

While we are disappointed and concerned by this dip, we will be taking steps to understand it more fully and will be focusing on identifying the most effective areas for improvement.

Read the full PIRLS 2016 New Zealand country report

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