Ina V.S. Mullis
TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center

The PIRLS 2016 Encyclopedia: Education Policy and Curriculum in Reading provides an international perspective on language and reading education around the world. Each PIRLS 2016 country and benchmarking participant completed the PIRLS 2016 Curriculum Questionnaire and prepared a chapter summarizing key aspects of language and reading instruction around the world. The chapters describe the official languages of instruction and major language groups in each education system as well the structure and organization of the educational system. Details are provided about the language and reading curricula in the primary grades, and overall policies are discussed related to curriculum delivery (e.g., teacher education, approaches to reading instruction, assessment). The chapters were prepared from each country’s viewpoint, written primarily by experts from ministries of education, research institutes, or institutions of higher education with extensive knowledge of their country’s education system. Taken together, the data from the curriculum questionnaire and the information in the chapters present a concise yet rich portrait of language and reading curricula and instruction around the world, and make the PIRLS 2016 Encyclopedia a valuable resource for policy and research in comparative education.

PIRLS 2016 and ePIRLS 2016

IEA’s PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) aims to help countries improve reading instruction and students’ abilities to comprehend a variety of texts created for diverse purposes. PIRLS 2016 continues a series of international reading literacy assessments. Starting in the 1960s, IEA (International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement) pioneered international comparative assessment of educational achievement, and PIRLS built on the foundation of IEAʼs 1991 Reading Literacy Study. IEA is an independent international cooperative of national research institutions and government agencies, with nearly 70 member countries, and offices in Amsterdam and Hamburg.

The TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center is located in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. Headed by Drs. Ina V.S. Mullis and Michael O. Martin, the TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center has responsibility for the overall direction and management of the TIMSS and PIRLS projects, including design, development, and implementation.
PIRLS is an international assessment of reading comprehension at the fourth grade. It has been conducted every five years since 2001, making 2016 the fourth in the series of trend assessments. ePIRLS, an innovative assessment of online reading, made its debut in 2016 as an extension of PIRLS for countries where developing students’ competency in obtaining information from the Internet is an integral part of the school curriculum.

Fifty countries participated in PIRLS 2016, including some distinct educational systems that always have participated separately throughout IEA’s long history (e.g., the Dutch- and French-speaking communities of Belgium). In addition, PIRLS 2016 included 11 benchmarking participants (e.g., regions of participating countries, different language groups, different grades). Nationally representative samples of approximately 4,000 students from 150 to 200 schools were assessed in each, totaling more than 300,000 students. Fourteen countries and two of the benchmarking participants administered the ePIRLS extension to assess online reading.