Reading ability among children aged between nine and 10 has fallen in the US, Canada, France and several other developed countries, according to a comparative study of 50 countries published Tuesday.
Ten countries fared worse, compared with five years ago, in the 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study assessment of pupils in their fourth year of schooling – namely Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iran, Israel, Malta, New Zealand, Portugal and the US.
Eighteen, including England, Russia and Qatar made improvements.
Russia and Singapore topped the boards with 581 and 576 points respectively in the study of 319,000 children, who were assessed on their ability to understand literary and informational texts.
Egypt scored 330 points, while South Africa finished at the bottom with 320 points.
Girls outperformed boys in 48 countries, with an average difference of 19 points, and matched their reading abilities in two – Portugal and Macau.
Boys’ reading skills particularly lagged those of girls in mostly Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, Oman and Iran, but the gap was also large in secular South Africa.
The study, conducted by the Netherlands-based IEA international education charity, is the fourth of its kind since 2001.
It contains comparative information on time and resources devoted to teaching reading but does not draw conclusions, or make suggestions, about how countries could improve.
Reading skills falling in US, Canada, France: study