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PIRLS 2021 - Progress In Reading Literacy Study


Project duration: 01.03.2019 - 31.03.2023

Progress In Reading Literacy Study 2021

The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study 2021 (PIRLS 2021) is a school performance study that examines the reading competence of 4th grade students in an international comparison. The focus here is not on the individual performance of each student, but on the performance of educational systems in an international comparison. PIRLS 2021 thus offers important insights and is part of the overall strategy of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK) on educational monitoring.

Project description

The international comparative school performance study PIRLS 2021 examines the reading competence of students at the end of the fourth grade in Germany on the basis of representative data. The international focus of the project enables the reading performance of fourth graders in Germany to be compared with that in other countries and regions of the world. PIRLS is a central element of education monitoring in Germany and will take place for the fifth time in 2021. The survey enables statements to be made about trends in the school system. The PIRLS study focuses on reading literacy. Moreover, key characteristics of students (e.g., reading motivation), their teaching (e.g., reading instruction strategies), their schools (e.g., full- or half-day school), and their families (e.g., family preschool reading promotion) are considered and correlations to reading literacy are analyzed.

PIRLS is conducted every five years. Around 60 countries and regions worldwide are taking part in the current cycle. In Germany, around 8,900 fourth graders at approximately 400 elementary and special schools in all 16 German states take part in the main survey in spring 2021. Besides the testing and surveying of the students, information from their teachers and school administrators as well as their parents are collected by means of questionnaires. The extensive survey provides important background information. For the first time, reading literacy is measured digitally in PIRLS 2021 in Germany. For this purpose, students complete reading tasks on laptops. This innovation also makes it possible to gain insights into the effects of digitization on learning, particularly in the area of reading during the primary school years. A subsample is working on the reading tests paper-based to be able to control for possible effects of the mode change. In addition, some of the schools that already participated in PIRLS 2016 participate again in PIRLS 2021, which will provide the first opportunity to analyze developments at the school level in connection with students' reading competence more deeply.

Publication of the results

The results of PIRLS 2021 are expected to be published at the end of the year 2022. Thereby, the average performance of students in Germany will be presented and compared internationally. Furthermore, important framework conditions in the context of reading literacy at the end of primary school will be considered.

Responsibility of the study

The study was initiated by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) and is known internationally as the Progress in Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) (https://www.iea.nl/studies/iea/pirls/2021). International study leadership is based at Boston College (https://timssandpirls.bc.edu/pirls-landing.html). Germany is participating in PIRLS 2021 by decision of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK). The KMK and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) are funding the study. The PIRLS study is being conducted in a consortium of several scientists from Germany with different disciplinary backgrounds (educational science, subject didactics German, psychology) in an interdisciplinary way and in close cooperation with international partners. The national scientific project management lies with Prof. Dr. Nele McElvany.

Further information


Earlier projects:


IGLU-PIRLS 2011 (in German)

IGLU-PIRLS 2006 (in German)

IGLU-PIRLS 2001 (in German)

Lead researcher at IFS

Foto von Prof. Dr. Nele McElvany Prof. Dr. Nele McElvany,

Campus Nord, CDI, Room CDI / 232
Telephone: (+49)231 755-5512

Project management

Foto von PD Dr. Ramona Lorenz PD Dr. Ramona Lorenz,

Campus Nord, CDI, Room CDI / 237
Telephone: (+49)231 755-7969

Foto von Dr. Matthias Trendtel Dr. Matthias Trendtel,

Telephone: (+49)231 755-8073

Project team

Foto von Ruben Kleinkorres, M.Sc. Ruben Kleinkorres, M.Sc.,

Campus Nord, CDI, Room CDI / 018
Telephone: (+49)231 755-6205

Foto von Dr. Ulrich Ludewig Dr. Ulrich Ludewig,

Campus Nord, CDI, Room CDI / 013
Telephone: (+49)231 755-6203

Foto von Dr. Rahim Schaufelberger Dr. Rahim Schaufelberger,

Campus Nord, CDI, Room CDI / 222
Telephone: (+49)231 755-5626

Foto von Theresa Schlitter, M.A. Theresa Schlitter, M.A.,

Campus Nord, CDI, Room CDI / 013
Telephone: (+49)231 755-5676

External project partners

Prof. Dr. Andreas Frey (Goethe Universität Frankfurt frey@psych.uni-frankfurt.de)

Prof. Dr. Frank Goldhammer (Deutsches Institut für Internationale Pädagogische Forschung; Zentrum für internationale Bildungsvergleichsstudien goldhammer@dipf.de)

Prof. Dr. Anita Schilcher (Universität Regensburg anita.schilcher@ur.de)

Prof. Dr. Tobias Stubbe (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen tstubbe@uni-goettingen.de)

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