A third of children in every class can’t keep up with lessons because of reading ability, international teachers say


  • International teachers say 2 hours of curriculum time each week is lost helping students to read
  • 9 in 10 international teachers (93%) feel personal responsibility to help weak readers improve
  • 83% of international teachers have felt at a loss at times about how to help a struggling reader
  • International teachers say 8 in 10 parents struggle to get children to read at home

A morning’s worth of curriculum time is lost every week in international schools to help children who struggle with reading, according to a survey of primary and secondary school teachers from across the world. 

In the study - commissioned by Renaissance (incorporating GL Education) – international teachers estimate that a third of children (34%) are weak readers and need additional help to keep up with the lessons they teach. The findings also reveal that, on average, a fifth (17%) are taken out of class for 30 minutes or more each week to receive additional reading support, and that 2 hours of curriculum time weekly – which equates to approximately a morning – is consequently lost.

The survey of 445 teachers in international schools from across the globe, and the basis for the Turning the page report, found there was little difference in attitude between primary and secondary teachers or between English and non-English subject teachers.

9 in 10 (93%) international teachers say they feel personally responsible for helping weak readers improve, although a similar proportion (83%) also admit that they have felt at a loss at times to know how to do so. Almost all (95%) also say it would be useful to know which students in their class have been identified as struggling readers. 

Only a third (33%) of international teachers feel sufficient time is given to the development of reading skills across the curriculum and an even bigger proportion of secondary school teachers (84%) think it’s their school’s responsibility to teach phonics. 

When it comes to the way students should access text, three-quarters (73%) of international teachers felt it was acceptable for students to use audio or ebooks to read – less than a fifth (16%) didn’t.

A third (36%) of international teachers also say their school encourages them to share the books they read in private publicly with students. Yet despite this, almost a quarter (23%) are reluctant to share their reading choices some or all the time. When the former were asked why, the reasons given were – it’s part of my private life (44%), my choices are controversial (39%), my choices are a bit low-brow (18%).

Unsurprisingly perhaps, international teachers have a great deal of sympathy for parents who are trying to get their children to read. Four-fifths (79%) think parents find it difficult to encourage children to read at home. Asked why they think it is so difficult, 83% blame digital distractions, 69% say parents are too busy, 68% think it is because parents don’t read themselves, 46% say that parents want to avoid an argument, and (41%) say that sports and hobbies take up their children’s spare time.

Crispin Chatterton, Director of Education at Renaissance (incorporating GL Education) says:

“A few years ago, non-primary school teachers or those not teaching English rarely considered teaching children to read as their responsibility. So, it is heartening to see that almost all teachers in international schools, regardless of subject or the type of school they teach in, feel they have a personal responsibility to help weak readers improve. 

“Teachers understand that children who struggle with reading are going to find it difficult to progress personally and academically. But they also increasingly appreciate that if these students are to keep up with the content they teach, they will have to help them with any gaps in reading ability as well as subject knowledge. 

“The findings in this report clearly reflect teachers’ understanding of the crucial role reading skills play in a student’s academic progression. Just as revealing is how determined teachers are to personally ensure that students acquire them.

“Providing teachers with the right tools for in-classroom support, helping children to help themselves and enabling parents to help them too are key.”

Lauren Ebsworth, Assistant Primary Principal, The Alice Smith School, Malaysia, adds:

“We want our children to become proficient and lifelong readers. Data helps us support them to achieve that. [It] isn’t going to replace doing the job of an educator – but it’s going to make your job easier and it's going to guide students on their journey much better.

“The impact on teacher workload is also positive. With the data being so easily accessible and easily filtered, we can look at individual students, groups or classes and quickly gain the insights needed to inform ongoing teaching.”

The full Turning the page report is available to download at reports.gl-education.com/turning-the-page


Notes for editors

Renaissance (incorporating GL Education) conducted a survey of 445 international primary school and secondary school teachers online during April 2024.

About GL Education

GL Education, part of Renaissance, is a leading provider of formative assessments to schools and school groups in the UK and in over 100 countries worldwide. It provides assessments that help to reveal students’ potential, track their progress, and identify any barriers to learning they might have. 


About Renaissance

As a global leader in education technology, Renaissance is committed to providing schools and school groups with insights and resources to accelerate learning and help all students build a strong foundation for success. Its assessments (which now include GL Assessment) offer the ideal starting point to help schools understand their students’ strengths, pinpoint areas of need, and put targeted measures in place. Meanwhile, its teaching and learning programmes and personalised practice solutions provide effective next steps to drive better student outcomes. 


For further information

For further information and to arrange media interviews, contact: [email protected], +44 (0) 203 763 2703