How well can young people read, as they approach the end of their basic education? The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey provides a more complete answer to this question than has previously been possible at an international level. It shows reading literacy levels of students aged 15, in 32 countries, in terms of how well they can use written materials to meet the challenges of the real world and to become lifelong learners.
Following the initial report on the results of the first PISA survey, this report looks more closely at performance in reading. Some countries manage to combine high overall results with relatively small differences among students; in others, there are worryingly large numbers of students capable of only the most basic reading tasks. More specifically, there are particularly wide inequalities, in some countries, in the ability of students to deal with written materials in non-continous form - such as graphs or forms. Students also show greater differences in many countries in their ability to retrieve required information from texts than when it comes to interpreting or reflecting on information. Such outcomes give clues to policy makers about how their education system might improve.
More specific policy messages come from looking at which students read well. Those from more advantaged backgrounds perform better on average, but the gap varies greatly across countries. Female students perform better than male students in every country. But the most striking result reported here is the difference between students who are more "engaged" in reading and those who are less so. Those who express positive attitudes to reading, who read a variety of materials, and who spend time reading for pleasure, are on average much better readers. The analysis also indicates that reading engagement can to some extent compensate for the disadvantage in students' social background. This result underlines the critical importance to school systems of developing curricula that will interest students as well as instruct them.
This book will help readers understand better the factors associated with reading well in the modern world.
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