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Irish teenagers top the list for reading skills across the EU, according to major global study

Ireland was also in the top three for maths and science across the EU in the latest results published by Pisa.

IRISH TEENAGERS HAVE been ranked first for reading skills across the EU in a major global study comparing education standards in 81 countries.

Ireland also ranks first among the 37 OECD nations, but second among the 81 countries analysed. 

Ireland was also in the top three for maths and science within the 26 EU nations in the latest results published by the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa).

An initiative of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), the Pisa study measures the ability of 15-year-olds to use reading, maths and science knowledge and skills to meet real-life challenges.

First run in 2000, the latest Pisa was conducted in 2022 and involved representative samples across the 81 participating countries of around 690,000 students.

The results were representative of the 29 million 15-year-olds who live in those countries.

In Ireland, 5,569 students in 170 schools participated.

They scored above the OECD average in the three areas examined.

In reading, Ireland rose to second in the global table, from eighth in 2018, even though its mean score of 516 was down by two on the previous assessment.

However, Ireland ranks first for reading within the EU.

In science, the mean score for Irish teenagers was 504, up by eight points on 2018 – a result that saw Ireland ranked 12th in the overall standings, up from 22nd four years previously.

In maths, the mean score was down by eight points to 492, but Ireland’s overall global ranking improved from 21st to 11th.

Among the 26 EU nations, Ireland ranks third in both science and maths.

Ireland’s rise up the rankings, despite recording slightly lower scores in two categories, can be explained by what the OECD said was an “unprecedented drop in performance” among many other countries.

So while Ireland performed relatively well compared with other nations, the picture is more mixed when the results are placed beside previous assessments.

In science, performance returned close to that recorded in 2015, but remained below the high mark set in 2012.

In reading, the overall trend since 2012 has been flat, neither improving nor declining significantly.

In maths, mean performance in 2022 was below that of any assessment since 2012.

Singapore topped all three categories in the 2022 assessment, which was delayed by a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ireland outperformed countries like the UK in all three areas tested.

In 2018, the UK scored higher than Ireland in science and maths.

Compared with 2018, mean performance across OECD member countries fell by 10 points in reading and almost 15 points in maths.

The drop in maths was almost three times the size of any previous change between assessments.

The study highlighted particularly significant downturns for countries such as Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway and Poland, which all saw a drop of 25 points or more in maths between 2018 and 2022.

While Covid-19 has been cited as one potential factor, the OECD said it was not just about the pandemic and longer-term issues with education systems were also having an effect.

Commenting on the standings, Education Minister Norma Foley said “Irish students have extremely high standards when it comes to reading, among the best there is”.

Within science, Foley said it’s “fantastic to see how well we have done with a significant improvement between 2018 and 2022”.

And while mathematics results have declined since 2018, Foley noted that “comparator countries such as Poland, Finland and Sweden have experienced a steeper decline than Ireland”.

“We have managed to move from twenty-first to eleventh place in the listings for mathematics and our students are still performing at above average level,” said Foley.

“We can learn from these results and put measures in place to help to further develop our students’ critical thinking.”

-With additional reporting from Diarmuid Pepper

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