Canadian Students Score High Internationally in Reading

By Omid Ghoreishi
Omid Ghoreishi
Omid Ghoreishi
Senior Reporter
Omid Ghoreishi is an Epoch Times reporter based in Toronto.
December 18, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
Epoch Times Photo
According to the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, Canadian grade 4 students achieved an overall score of 548 in reading, well above the international average of 500. (Jupiterimages/

Compared to the rest of the world, Canadian students are performing well in reading, and parents and teachers are successful in creating an environment both at home and in school that promotes good reading skills, according to a new international study. 

The 2011 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) compiled by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), found that Canadian grade 4 students perform well in reading, achieving an overall score of 548, well above the international average of 500. 

The highest scores were achieved by students from Hong Kong, the Russian Federation, Finland, and Singapore. Some of the other countries exceeding Canada’s score include Northern Ireland, the U.S, and Denmark.

Canadian students were also more likely to perform at the highest levels in reading when compared to the international average, with 13 percent reaching the highest level, above the 8 percent international average. 

The results also show that Canadian parents have one of the highest involvement rates in their children’s literacy during their preschool age. Activities such as reading books or playing word games with children in this age group is influential in helping children achieve higher reading scores once they enter school. 

In addition, students in Canada are more likely than almost any other country evaluated to say they like to read. 

The Amsterdam-based IEA, which has over 60 member states, is mandated with conducting large-scale comparative studies on educational policies and practices around the world. 

The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) also released a report focusing on the Canadian results from PIRLS with added interpretation.

Ramona Jennex, chair of CMEC and Nova Scotia’s Minister of Education, said in a statement that the results “are very encouraging for our youth, our schools and our communities.”

“They confirm the essential role of families in developing early literacy skills of young children, in preparing them well for school, and in supporting teachers in developing strong reading skills both at home and at school. They also show why so many other countries continue to look to our teachers and our schools as models to follow,” Jennex said.

The PIRLS results also show that Canadian students in English-language schools outperform students in French-language schools, and girls perform better at reading compared to boys in Canada.

Room for Improvement

While Canada’s performance is encouraging, CMEC notes the results show that there is more work to be done. 

The organization says an important concern shown by the study is the prevalence of bullying in Canada, with 7 to 17 percent of grade 4 students having experienced a specific bullying behaviour at least once a week. The number of students that almost never experience any type of bullying was less than half.

According to PIRLS, which looks at trends in reading achievement of Grade 4 students along with policies and practices related to literacy across the world, being bullied has an adverse effect on reading performance. 

The study also shows that many teachers in Canada find that children are not coming to school as ready to learn as they should be, and many lack the prerequisite knowledge and skills. 

About two-thirds of teachers also say students’ learning is affected by lack of sleep, and one-third express concern about students’ lack of basic nutrition. 

“Although we should be pleased with these results, PIRLS shows us that there remains room for improvement in early literacy,” said CEMC director general Andrew Parkin. 

The 2011 PIRLS was conducted with over 325,000 students from 45 countries and economies around the world. Over 23,000 students from Canada were included in the study.

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Omid Ghoreishi
Senior Reporter
Omid Ghoreishi is an Epoch Times reporter based in Toronto.