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Go Back to the List May 16, 2023
Victorian students reading scores went backwards amid long remote learning period, international study shows

Progress in international reading literacy study (Pirls) results show Australian students from disadvantaged backgrounds still lag behind national average

Victorian students were the only Australian cohort to go backwards in a prestigious international reading exam, after experiencing the longest periods of remote learning in the nation.

The 2021 progress in international reading literacy study (Pirls) test, released on Tuesday, measured trends in year 4 students’ reading literacy across 57 nations.

It found Australia’s overall results remained relatively stable compared with the most recent survey in 2016, ranking 11th overall, while Victoria was a notable outlier, with the average student score falling 14 points.

Nevertheless, Victorian students still achieved higher average scores than all Australian jurisdictions except the ACT.

Students from disadvantaged backgrounds, in remote areas and First Nations students also lagged behind the national average, with the gap failing to narrow since Australia first participated in the exam in 2011, while female students and those who came from households with large book collections outperformed their peers.

The Pirls national project manager for Australia, Kylie Hillman, said Victoria’s overall score had dropped as had the proportion of higher performing students in the state.

But she said the number of students achieving the national proficient standard had remained stable.

“Victorian students spent the longest periods of time in remote learning during the pandemic and had only recently returned to face-to-face learning at the time of the 2021 Pirls assessment,” she said.

Just under half of Australian students spent eight weeks or more in remote learning during the pandemic, compared with 100% of Victorian students.

Hillman said that “encouragingly”, the reading results for the same cohort of Victorian students when they took Naplan in 2022 were similar to the results for the previous cohort in 2021.

Australia’s average score in 2021 was 540 points, just shy of the “high” international benchmark of 550 points and similar to 2016 (544 points) and 2011 (527 points).

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Written by Caitlin Cassidy,
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