South Africa’s participation in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2011 is an international comparative evaluation of reading literacy of Grade 4 (nine year-old) learners involving more than 40 countries. PIRLS 2011 is the third, after PIRLS 2006 in which South Africa participated, in a series of planned five-year cycles of assessment. For South Africa particularly, participation in PIRLS 2011 is aimed at ascertaining trends in reading literacy achievement. The availability of PIRLS 2006 data will serve as baseline data against which performance of the 2011 cohort of Grade 4 learners can be measured.
PIRLS and prePIRLS 2011 consist of a test of reading passages and background questionnaires to collect information about fourth-grade children’s reading literacy abilities. Background questionnaires are administered to Grade 4 learners, their parents, teachers and school principals. These instruments were adapted and contextualised in South African English and then were translated into the 10 other South African official languages.
The data collection phase of the PIRLS 2011 study has been completed. Ultimately the sample for Grade 4 and Grade 5 comprised 357 schools and 535 classes and was stratified by language to ensure a representative sample of Grade 4 learners in all 11 languages. The South African Grade 4 learners participated in the prePIRLS component and the Grade 5 Afrikaans and English learners were selected to participate in the PIRLS component permitting a trend analysis of reading achievement between 2006 and 2011 as South Africa had participated in 2006.
More then 15 000 achievement booklets have been scored to date. Results of the PIRS 2011 study will be released in December 2012. In anticipation of the results and the release of the International report, Prof Sarah Howie (National research Coordinator: PIRLS 2011) and Dr Surette van Staden (Co National Research Coordinator: PIRLS 2011) travelled to Vienna, Austria early in December 2011 to attend the 7th National Research Coordinators’ meeting which was hosted by the International Association for the Evaluation of educational achievement (IEA) and Boston College.