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PIRLS results released today: Dubai private schools beat Finland and England to rank 6th in reading skills globally. Dubai’s British curriculum schools rank ahead of alternative curriculum counterparts.

PIRLS results released today: Dubai private schools beat Finland and England to rank 6th in reading skills globally. Dubai’s British curriculum schools rank ahead of alternative curriculum counterparts.

by Tabitha BardaMay 18, 2023

Dubai private schools have increased their score by 76 points since 2011 to place top ten in the world in the most recent cycle of the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) assessment, putting them ahead of the score achieved by countries like Finland and England.

PIRLS is an international assessment held every five years to measure the reading and literacy skills of students enrolled in Grade 4 globally.

PIRLS Results place Dubai sixth in the world for reading

Private schools in Dubai scored 566 points in the 2021 study, significantly higher than the global average of 500 points, making it equal with the score achieved by Northern Ireland and ahead of those achieved by schools in England (558) and Finland (549), (although these country-wide scores incorporate the results from every type of school across the whole country, so it is not a direct comparison). See the full results breakdown here. 

Average Reading Achievement and Scale Score Distributions.

The UAE’s overall score was lower than the PIRLS scale centrepoint at 483, but this number is an average that incorporates scores from public schools, as well as public and private schools from other emirates.

Every school receives its own individual PIRLS score, so the KHDA, Dubai’s school regulator, extrapolated the data from every Dubai private school to produce an average score of 566. If Dubai private schools were assessed as an individual unit, this would put them into sixth place on the global league table, ranking just below Northern Ireland due to the Standard Error score.

Dubai’s overall score (including both private and public schools) was still well above the global average, while Abu Dhabi’s score (including both private and public schools) was below the global average at 440.


PIRLS Results Dubai 2023

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.

PIRLS Results released in 2023

Pictured: Dr Abdulla Al Karam, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Director General of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) as Dubai announced private school performance in PIRLS’ reading that places it firmly with the best education systems in the world for children.

“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.”

British curriculum schools in Dubai score highest in reading skills test

The PIRLS scores reveal interesting variation in reading skills scores between school curricula.

UK curriculum schools performed best in the PIRLS assessment, scoring 588 points, followed by IB curriculum schools with 583 points. Indian schools ranked at 567, while US schools were lower down at 522, but were still comfortably above the global average of 500. Private schools following the Ministry of Education curriculum scored 468. We have been unable to provide any obvious explanation for this disparity and would welcome suggested analysis. 

PIRLS Results – EN (1)


As you would expect, Dubai schools with higher inspection ratings got the highest scores: 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.

Fatma Belrehif, CEO of Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau commented:

“The results from the latest PIRLS assessments reflect the performance of the school inspections, with Outstanding and Very Good schools outperforming global averages.

Fatma Belrehif, CEO of Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau

“We are proud of our school community’s dedicated approach to supporting students through the pandemic and continuing to offer high-quality education during challenging times.”

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.

© 2023 – 2024

About The Author
Tabitha Barda
Tabitha Barda is the Senior Editor of Oxbridge educated and an award winning journalist in the UAE for more than a decade, Tabitha is one of the region's shining lights in all that is education in the emirates. A mum herself, she is passionate about helping parents - and finding the stories in education that deserve telling. She is responsible for the busy 24x7 News Desk, our Advisory Boards and Specialist Panels - and Parents United's WHICHPlaydates - a regular meeting place for UAE parents to discuss the issues that matter to them, make friends and network with others. You can often find Tabitha too on Parents United - our Facebook community board, discussing the latest schools and education issues with our parent community in the UAE - and beyond.

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