Underachievement in reading

In 2018, in Belgium 21.3% of the students aged 15 had insufficient reading skills. To achieve the sustainable development goal by 2030, this figure must be reduced to 15%. This objective will not be reached by continuing the trend since 2000 (data available in June 2021). The students aged 15 that had insufficient reading skills is therefore developing unfavourably.

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Underachievement in reading - Belgium - trend assessment

percentage of 15-year-old students

 2000201220152018202020252030
observations19.016.119.521.3------
trend and extrapolation (June 2021)18.818.019.020.521.423.224.3
objective 203015.015.015.015.015.015.015.0

OECD; Eurostat (2020), Underachieving 15-year-old students by sex and field - PISA survey [educ_outc_pisa]; https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat (consulted on 08/06/2020) & calculations FPB.

Underachievement in reading - Belgium and international comparison

percentage of 15-year-old students

 20002003200620092012201520182018//20002018//2012
Belgium19.017.919.417.716.119.521.30.64.8
EU2719.820.823.719.718.020.022.50.73.8
//: Average Growth Rates

2015: EU28

OECD; Eurostat (2020), Underachieving 15-year-old students by sex and field - PISA survey [educ_outc_pisa]; https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat (consulted on 08/06/2020).

Underachievement in reading by sex - Belgium

percentage of 15-year-old students

 2000200320062009201220152015//20002015//2009
females14.113.013.413.811.817.01.33.5
males22.822.424.921.520.422.0-0.20.4
//: Average Growth Rates

OECD; Eurostat (2020), Underachieving 15-year-old students by sex and field - PISA survey [educ_outc_pisa]; https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat (consulted on 08/06/2020).

Definition: the indicator measures the proportion of 15-year-old students who do not reach level 2 (elementary level) of the PISA scale for reading performance. It is one of the three key areas of learning, alongside mathematics and sciences. The data come from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international survey conducted every three years to assess the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students. In Belgium, the tests are carried out by the universities of Ghent and Liege. Since these data are based on surveys, a margin of uncertainty should be taken into account. The confidence intervals can be found on the OECD website, on the PISA data pages.

Goal: the proportion of 15-year-old students with inadequate reading skills must reach 15% in 2030.

The Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs adopted by the UN in 2015 include target 4.6: "By 2030, ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy".

The European Council of 12 May 2009 adopted in its conclusions a strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET, 2020; Official Journal of the European Union, 28/5/2009). It sets the following target: "With a view to ensuring that all learners attain an adequate level of basic skills, especially in reading, mathematics and science: By 2020, the share of low-achieving 15-years olds in reading, mathematics and science should be less than 15%". As there is no target for 2030, this target is assumed to remain valid.

International comparison: the share of 15-year-old students with insufficient reading proficiency develops very similarly in Belgium and in the EU27. The share was always lower in Belgium than in the EU27. The lowest gap was recorded in 2015 (barely 0.5 percentage point). The gap in 2018 was 1.2 percentage points. Eurostat also warns, in its comments on OECD figures, against a Europe-wide decline in school performance in all three key areas. When Member States are divided into three groups, Belgium is part of the group with average performance and performs better than the European average in 2018.

UN indicator: the selected indicator corresponds to indicator 4.6.1 - Proportion of population in a given age group achieving at least a fixed level of proficiency in functional (a) literacy and (b) numeracy skills.

Sources

  • General

    • SDGs, Sustainable Development Goals: United Nations (2015), Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 25 September 2015, document A/RES/70/1.

    • Indicators: United Nations (2017), Work of the Statistical Commission pertaining to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 6 July 2017, document A/RES/71/313.

    • UN Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/ (consulted on 26/04/2019).

    • Sustainable Development Goal indicators website: https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/ (consulted on 26/04/2019).
  • Specific

More information is available in French and Dutch.