Irish teenagers ranked second for reading skills in major global study

Irish Teenagers Ranked Second For Reading Skills In Major Global Study
Ireland's placement among 81 countries worldwide improved across the three areas examined: reading, maths and science. Photo: PA Images
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David Young, PA

Irish teenagers have been ranked second for reading skills in a major global study comparing education standards in 81 countries.

Ireland was also in the top 15 for maths and science 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.

In science, the mean score for Irish teenagers was 504, up by eight points on 2018 – a result which 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.

'Unprecedented drop in performance'

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.


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.

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