Private schools in Dubai scored 566 points in the 2021 study, significantly higher than the global average of 500 points. Twenty-seven per cent of students in Dubai private schools achieved the Advanced International Benchmark of 625 points, compared to 12 per cent in 2016. Due to the pandemic, UAE students did not participate in the PIRLS tests until the last quarter of 2021, at the start of the 2021-22 academic year, when they had joined Grade 5/Year 6.
This is first time Dubai’s private schools have achieved a place in the top 10 of the global league table. The overall figure for both public and private schools in Dubai was 552 points placing the Emirate in eighth place. The UAE average for both public and private schools in Abu Dhabi and Dubai was 483. The figure for both public and private schools in Abu Dhabi was 440. Comparable figures for private schools in Abu Dhabi have not been released.
Conducted every five years since 2001, PIRLS is recognised as the global standard for assessing trends in reading achievement in Grade 4/Year 5. By this time in their education, students typically have learned how to read and are now reading to learn.
PIRLS is operated in tandem with TIMMS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science) and all UAE schools are required to undertake these benchmarking tests. PIRLS 2021 was the only international assessment of educational achievement that successfully collected data during COVID-19’s disruption to students’ schooling. Internationally, some countries, including the UK, postponed the assessments by a year, resulting in the release of the results now.
PIRLS 2021 was the fifth assessment cycle, providing 20 years of trend results with data collected from 57 countries and eight benchmarking entities (of which Dubai and Abu Dhabi were two). The assessment involved 400,000 students, 380,000 parents, 20,000 teachers, and 13,000 schools internationally. The UAE was one of 26 countries and 7 benchmarking entities that transitioned to digital assessment as their primary mode of data collection.
According to the TIMMS and PIRLS International Study Centre, although collecting data in schools faced many disruptions, most countries met the standards for high-quality data collection.
Dr Abdulla Al Karam, Director General of KHDA said: “Congratulations to the school leaders, teachers, parents, and students at all participating schools on this great accomplishment. These results are significant not just because they exemplify the world-class teaching and learning happening across our schools every day. They are also an acknowledgement of how our school community worked together to overcome the restrictions in place at the time PIRLS was conducted. Achievements such as this provide further affirmation that education in Dubai can take its place among the best in the world.”
According to the KHDA, Dubai's private schools rated Outstanding scored 631 points – nearly 150 more than the global average, while Very Good and Good schools scored 588 points and 564 points respectively. UK curriculum schools performed best in the PIRLS assessment, scoring 588 points, followed by IB curriculum schools with 583 points.