PIRLS 2021. Attitudes towards reading

The results of the PIRLS 2021 survey, which will be announced in May 2023, will help answer the question of how the pandemic and distance learning have affected elementary school students’ reading knowledge and skills. This is because the PIRLS 2021 survey was conducted among students during the most difficult period of the pandemic (pilot in the spring of 2020 and the main survey in the late spring of 2021). 

Students participating in the PIRLS survey (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) are tasked with reading texts and answering open and closed questions found in test books. This allows for the collection of data on the school achievement of students from each country. The second part of the survey is a questionnaire used to collect contextual data, completed by school principals, teachers, students and their parents. Poland uses paper questionnaires to implement the survey. Some countries implement the survey in a computerized version.

The questions in the student survey are designed to provide a deeper understanding of the links between student achievement and attitudes. Many previous educational studies indicate that there is a strong correlation between the two. The relationship works both ways: beliefs affect student achievement, and the latter can perpetuate or modify attitudes. This is due to a rather simple mechanism: students with better reading skills read more readily than those with weaker skills, and due to the fact that they read more often, they develop more advanced reading skills and strategies.

It is therefore very important to form strong positive attitudes about reading among students. This is because it is essential for effective learning and assimilation of knowledge in various subjects. This skill became particularly important under pandemic conditions, when students had to work independently at home without direct contact with the school. In such a situation, positive attitudes toward reading may have been one of the key factors in determining academic progress. 

In the PIRLS survey, students’ attitudes and beliefs about reading are examined through the use of two scales: the Attitudes Toward Reading scale (what students think about reading) and the Attitudes Toward Self as a Reader scale (how students rate their own reading skills).

In the previous 2016 edition of the PIRLS survey, Polish fourth-graders ranked roughly in the middle of the scale in terms of attitudes toward reading, compared to results from all participating countries. More than half of the world’s students liked reading very much, but less than half of the students in Poland. 

Polish students’ self-assessment of their reading skills in the 2016 PIRLS survey was high, putting us in second place, behind Sweden. The percentages of responses declaring total confidence in their skills are higher in our country than in the world, while the percentages of strong self-critical responses are lower.

The performance of Poland’s students is best compared with other European countries, particularly countries in our region, which often have similar education systems and social contexts. 

Although in most countries of the world the 2022/2023 school year began with on-site learning, it is impossible to argue that the COVID-19 pandemic did not affect all education systems. They have changed as a result of long-term remote learning. 

Encyclopedia of PIRLS 2021 – learn more

We will find out how students’ attitudes and skills relating to reading have changed under the impact of the pandemic and remote learning on May 16, 2023, when the results of the PIRLS 2021 survey for all countries, including Poland, are announced. Originally, the date for dissemination of the survey results was set for December 2022, but this has been changed due to delays in research schedules in many countries caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. A national report on the survey in book form will be published when the results are announced by the international consortium.