General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

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International Study rates NI 5th out of 45 countries



PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) is an international comparison study of reading achievement at ages 9-10 and TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) is a parallel study of mathematics and science at ages 9-10.

2011 was the first year in which the cycles of the two studies coincided, allowing the opportunity to assess the same pupils at ages 9-10 in all three subject domains. 2011 was the first time that the local education system took part in PIRLS and TIMSS.

The key points emerging from the studies are as follow:-

  • In reading, NI pupils were ranked 5th out of the 45 participating countries. Pupils in NI significantly outperformed pupils in 36 of the countries that participated in PIRLS 2011.
  • NI was the highest ranking English speaking country.
  • NI pupils were ranked 6th out of the 50 countries that participated in TIMSS 2011 mathematics. NI pupils significantly outperformed pupils in 44 other countries. NI was the highest performing English speaking country in mathematics.
  • The average score for NI pupils in science was lower than for reading and mathematics, although still significantly above the TIMSS science international average.
  • NI pupils outperformed pupils in 23 other countries and were outperformed by pupils in 17 countries in science.
  • Pupils in NI who were categorised as liking, ‘motivated to’ or ‘confident in’ reading, learning mathematics or learning science were more likely to have higher average achievement scores.
  • Pupils in NI were more likely (84%) to be taught by teachers who rated their working conditions relatively highly compared to the international average (73%).
  • NI had one of the highest levels of computer provision among all participating countries with over three quarters of pupils taught in schools where a computer was available for every 1 to 2 pupils.
  • NI had the highest proportion of schools that were categorised as safe and orderly and one of the highest levels for discipline and safety.
  • A higher proportion of children (30%) in NI reported having many resources for learning at home compared with the average internationally (17%). Pupils with access to more home resources for learning had higher average achievement in reading, mathematics and science.
  • The proportion of pupils whose teachers reported lack of sleep as a limiting factor was greater in NI than the international average in all 3 subjects.
  • Pupils in NI whose teachers reported that pupils’ lack of basic nutrition and lack of sufficient sleep limited teaching had lower average achievement than those pupils whose teachers reported not having these limitations.

A research briefing on the main findings of PIRLS 2011 and TIMSS 2011 can be found at:

Further information on PIRLS 2011 and the full NI report can be found at:

Further information on TIMSS 2011 and the full NI report can be found at:

PIRLS 2011 International Results in Reading report can be found at:

TIMSS 2011 International Results in Mathematics report can be found at:

TIMSS 2011 International Results in Science report can be found at:


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