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Results of the PIRLS study published

University of Regensburg professor Dr. Anita Schilcher is part of the consortium for the first time

17 May 2023

The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study – PIRLS regularly compares the reading skills of children from different countries. For the current, fifth PIRLS study, Prof. Dr. Anita Schilcher, Chair of Didactics of German Language and Literature at the University of Regensburg, was part of the consortium for the first time. The results of the study have now been published in the Federal Press Conference, confirming a trend that has already emerged in other educational studies: the percentage of children leaving elementary school without adequate reading skills has increased.

The current survey shows that so far it has not been possible to create conditions for learning to read that are favorable to all students. "The various measures taken over the past two decades have had little effect in terms of improving educational success and educational equity as well as equal opportunity in Germany”, says Prof. Dr. Nele McElvany from the Center for Research on Education and School Development at the TU Dortmund University.

  • When compared internationally, Germany ranks in the middle. However, performance variance has increased since 2001 and remains high at 77 points.
  • A quarter (25.4 percent) of students show significant reading deficits. Their reading skills are too low to ensure successful learning in secondary schools. This percentage was significantly lower in 2016 (18.9 percent).
  • There is still an unfavorable correlation between reading performance and social background. Despite many efforts, it has not been possible to eliminate these social inequalities over the past 20 years.
  • At the end of elementary school, a child is more likely to be transferred to a grammar school if the child comes from an educated household. The decision depends more on social background than on a child's cognitive ability.
  • Teachers in Germany spend less time on promoting reading skills (141 minutes per week) than in other countries. More time is invested in the EU (194 min./week) as well as in the OECD (205 min./week).
  • The digitization of elementary schools in Germany is below average by international standards, both in terms of equipment and usage.

In the current PIRLS study, Prof. Dr. Anita Schilcher and her team examined the quality of reading instruction at elementary schools. Although it is evident that many students are not benefiting or are benefiting little from the lessons, children rate them positively and even better than in 2016. Systematic and standardized diagnostics would be a prerequisite for all children to benefit. It will ensure that the support measures in the classroom are commensurate to the needs of students.

“In view of the worrying performance trends, which are also confirmed by PIRLS 2021, a stronger focus on reading skills as well as evidence-based education and training for teachers in the areas of diagnostics, support and differentiation are essential," said Prof. Dr. Schilcher.

The detailed results have been published by Waxmann-Verlag and are available on their website for free download: www.waxmann.com/buch4700


Prof. Dr. Anita Schilcher 
Chair of Didactics of German Language and Literature
Tel.: +49 (0)941 943-3442
E-mail: anita.schilcher@ur.de

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