Six Subject Survey: Literature Education

The major objective of the IEA Study of Literature Education was to assess the influence of schools and teachers of literature on the achievement of their students.

The test included measures of students' responses to specific literary texts and their level of comprehension. Attitudes and interests in relation to literature were also investigated. Student, teacher, and school questionnaires collected data about factors associated with student achievement. The study was carried out as part of the Six Subject Survey, which also investigated achievement in civic educationEnglish as a foreign languageFrench as a foreign languagereading comprehension, and science. The data were collected in 1970–1971.

Target population

The target populations were 14-year-old students and students in the final year of secondary school.

Participating education systems

Belgium (Flemish), Belgium (French), Chile, England, Finland, Iran, Italy, New Zealand, Sweden, and United States.

Key findings

Students' responses to literature

The patterns of students' responses to literature varied between countries on two dimensions. One dimension involved personal (Iran, Finland, New Zealand, England, Chile) versus impersonal interpretations (Belgium (Flemish), Italy, Belgium (French), United States, Sweden). The second dimension involved content (Chile, Belgium (French), England, Iran, United States) versus form (Italy, Belgium (Flemish), Finland, New Zealand, Sweden).

The patterns of students' responses to literature were influenced by the literary nature of the selections that students were given to read. Different literary samples elicited different responses from students, with some consistency across cultures and school systems.

Related factors

The major factor associated with student achievement in literature in all countries except Sweden was the home background of students. However, this factor did not act in isolation from the interests, attitudes, and verbal abilities of students. The students who expressed interests in literature were those who read frequently, who read a variety of selections, and who came from homes that were oriented towards books.

In most countries and at both age levels, the gender of students was consistently an important factor in accounting for differences in literature achievement, with girls outperforming boys. These differences were consistent with gender differences in students' literary interests.

Major publications

Bloom, B.S. (1969). Cross-national study of educational attainment: Stage I of the I.E.A. investigation in six subject areas (Vols. 1–2). Washington, DC: Office of Education (DHEW).

Passow, A.H., Noah, H.J., Eckstein, M.A., & Mallea, J.R. (1976). The national case study: An empirical comparative study of twenty-one educational systems. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell.

Peaker, G.F. (1975). An empirical study of education in twenty-one countries: A technical report. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell.

Purves, A.C. (1973). Literature education in ten countries: An empirical study. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell.

Walker, D.A. (1976). The IEA Six Subject Survey: An empirical study of education in twenty-one countries. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell.