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By the numbers

Rural schools

More than 40 per cent of 10-year-olds around the world go to school in small towns or rural areas, according to data from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (Pirls).

Keeping schools in these areas viable is an issue for most governments, which are responsible for redistributing funds to ensure that students everywhere have access to education.

In the UK, the government has been moving towards increasing the proportion of a school's funding allocated on a per-student basis, but this is causing problems in rural regions. As a result, this year the rules are being changed to allow local authorities to give extra money to rural schools.

In the US, meanwhile, new legislation has been passed to allow money to be given to counties that previously paid for rural schools out of timber revenues, which have fallen sharply in recent years.

Pirls, administered by Boston College in the US, shows that, on average, 10-year-olds living in rural areas perform less well in reading than those in small towns. Children who live in cities do the best on average, although wide variations exist between countries.


The table represents the percentage of 10-year-old students who live in cities, towns and rural locations, and their levels of achievement as measured by the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (Pirls) 2011.

Cities are defined as places with a population of 100,000-plus; towns as having a population between 15,001 and 100,000; and rural locations as having a population of 15,000 or less.

The table shows a selection of the 45 countries in Pirls that gave details of population size. The Pirls tests scored a representative sample of 10-year-olds on their reading and comprehension.

Source: Pirls 2011 International Results in Reading, Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, exhibit 5.1. bit.lyPirlsCity.

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