For a country that prides itself on its literary heritage, naming bridges and warships after its writing heavyweights, with Dublin having received UNESCO status as a City of Literature, Ireland is lagging behind many of its European neighbours in a new list of the world’s most literate nations. In a study of more than 60 countries, Ireland comes in at 24th.
Analysing the trends in reading behaviours, the research was carried out by John W Miller, the president of Central Connecticut State University, and has spent the last 40 years examining the world’s literacy levels. The Nordic nations of Finland, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, and Sweden top the list, with Ireland lagging far behind many EU member states.
Here are the rankings as published in the study:
The study looked into a number of variables to rank how literacy achievement could be determined, taking statistics from PIRLS (the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) and PISA (the Programme for International Student Assessment). To these were added data covering a country’s libraries, newspaper readership, education systems, computer availability, and population size.
Ireland’s best performance was in education test scores, where the country ranked ninth in a field dominated by Pacific Rim nations (Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and China) known for the exacting standards demanded by their school systems. Ireland performed worst in the libraries category, ranking 43rd. The data looked at the number of academic, public, and school libraries, as well as the collection sizes of all public libraries in the country.
“The factors we examined present a complex and nuanced portrait of a nation’s cultural vitality,” Miller said, “And what the rankings strongly suggest and world literacy demonstrates is that these kinds of literate behaviours are critical to the success of individuals and nations in the knowledge-based economics that define our global future.”