Reading ability of Latvian students : results from an international study

Abstract: Reading literacy is becoming a crucial skill for the success in the modern society. Since Latvia is an industrialized country, with a relatively small population, it is of a crucial importance that the educational system produces well literate people. This is important both in order to sustain and to improve country's social and economic development.The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) was organized in the 1960's as a non-governmental and cooperative organization to conduct comparative studies concentrating on educational policies and practices in order to improve learning within and across systems of education. The IEA Reading Literacy Study was the first national study in the field of comparative education carried out in Latvia in early 90's. About 1000 nine-year-old students from 54 classrooms and 800 fourteen-year-old students from 53 schools participated in the study. The study provides us with important information about student reading habits, home background, as well as about teaching strategies. Whenever it is possible, an international comparison is given.Two-level structural equation modeling is applied in a reanalysis of the IEA Reading Literacy Study data from Latvia. The aim is to present the relations between the factors derived from student home conditions and reading performance factors at the individual level and at the classroom level. The results shows that at the nine-year-old student classroom level a general socioeconomic factor has rather high connection with the reading performance, while at the individual level factors called "good reader" and "reading resources" had a strong effect upon student reading achievement. In the fourteen-year-old students group the factors "liking school" and "good reader" have influence upon reading achievement on student level, and the factors "liking school" and "reading resources" - on the classroom level.Since the current situation in beginning reading instruction in Latvia is still influenced by the educational policies and practices that were in use during the Soviet era, the analyses on the beginning reading instruction in Latvia is given. Basic terms and categories such as the definition of reading, reading models, and goals of reading instruction are presented as they are used and understood in Latvia and compared with those described in Russia and the literature on reading research in other countries.The study has notable implications for teachers and policy makers, as well as for future research.