Equity and diversity in reading comprehension: A case study of PISA 2000 - 2018

Jesper Bremholm, Tove Stjern Frønes, Maria Rasmusson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingContribution to book/anthologyResearchpeer-review


This chapter studies equity in reading performance in PISA 2000–2018 in three Nordic countries: Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Using regression analyses, the study investigates how the reading performance trend for groups of students with different genders, home backgrounds and minorities has developed. The study is contextualised through an up-to-date description of reading comprehension instruction in the countries. In addition to trend analyses of general reading performance, the study examines if the differences between groups of students are consistent across different text formats in the digital version of the PISA test, distinguishing between static text types (e.g., articles, letters, stories) and dynamic text types (e.g., websites, forums and e-mails, etc.). We find a consistently high reading literacy performance in all Scandinavian countries compared with international development. There are large gender differences in the average reading performance in all three countries, disfavouring boys, especially low-performing boys from low SES home backgrounds. We find a huge and stable gap between minority and majority students’ reading achievement, even when corrected for SES. Taking these findings into account, we assert that there is no basis for concluding that the school systems give more equitable learning conditions for groups of students now than when the PISA assessments started. However, it appears that the new online text formats in PISA 2018 might shrink the differences between student groups. Based on our findings, we argue that it is highly doubtful if one can still speak of a Nordic model of education, both as an idea of equity and fairness and as a model that is united across the Nordic countries.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEquity, Equality and Diversity in the Nordic Model of Education
EditorsT.S. Frønes, A. Pettersen, J. Radisic, N. Buchholtz
Number of pages31
Publication date2021
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-61648-9
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • learning, educational science and teaching

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