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December 3, 2013
For immediate release

New OECD report shows high levels of achievement by Canadian students

Education and Early Childhood Development

The results of a major international study released today by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show high levels of achievement by Canadian students in mathematics, reading, and science.

First administered in 2000, OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a triennial survey of the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds near the end of their compulsory schooling. PISA 2012 tested over half a million students, including 21,000 Canadians from 900 schools, on their skills and knowledge in three core subject areas. The major focus of the assessment was mathematics, with a secondary focus on reading and science.

Canada is releasing its own companion report, Measuring Up: Canadian Results of the OECD PISA Study, at the same time as the OECD report to provide further information on the performance of Canadian students at the provincial level.

According to the findings of the OECD report, Canadian 15-year-olds placed well above the OECD average and remain among the top performers in mathematics. Of the 65 countries and economies participating in the assessment, only three OECD countries and six non-OECD countries and economies outperformed Canada.

“I am very pleased that Canadian youth continue to be globally competitive in terms of their performance in the critical area of mathematics,” said the Honourable Jeff Johnson, Chair of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC), and Alberta’s Minister of Education. “Mathematics is an essential requirement for an information- and technology-rich economy and society. Our results show that young Canadians are completing their high-school education with the numeracy skills they need to succeed.”

PISA 2012 reading and science results also put Canada in the top tier of participating countries and economies. Only four surpassed Canada in reading, and only seven performed better than Canada in science.

In PISA 2012, Canada also continues to stand out as one of the high-performing countries with relatively high equity in student performance, which can be measured by the gap between the highest- and lowest-performing students. This is an indicator of the relative equity of provincial education systems.

While Canadian students did well in PISA 2012, results highlight some areas for continued focus. Although overall Canadian scores in mathematics remain high, they have drifted downward over time. Science and reading scores have not improved over the years either, with science scores showing a decline and reading scores remaining generally at the same level.

“We cannot be complacent in the face of a downward trend, no matter how small,” said Minister Johnson. “Through our council, ministers of education are considering data from a variety of sources and have already begun to discuss the best approaches to improving numeracy. The issues of student achievement and teaching excellence will be at the top of our agenda when CMEC meets in 2014. We will work together to ensure that Canadian students not only continue to place near the top of PISA performers but improve on their results over time.”

Other key findings from PISA 2012 include the following:

• Quebec students performed particularly well in mathematics and were on a par with many of the highest-performing countries and economies in the assessment. British Columbia students performed very well in reading and science. Alberta students were on a par with many of the best performers in science.

• On average across Canada, there was significant variation in mathematics performance according to gender, with boys outperforming girls. This pattern was similar in most other participating countries. In science, the performance of boys and girls was similar.

• In reading, girls were still well ahead of boys in Canada and internationally. The gap between boys and girls was smaller for students who did the assessment on computer.

• In mathematics, Canadian results showed some differences by language of the school system: students from the francophone system in Quebec and from the anglophone system in Ontario achieved higher scores than linguistic minorities in the same province. Similarly, in reading and science, in most provinces, students attending majority English-language school systems outperformed students in minority French-language school systems.

Canadian participation in PISA 2012 was made possible through collaboration among provinces, working through CMEC, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), and Statistics Canada. The Canadian report, Measuring Up: Canadian Results of the OECD PISA Study, can be found at or The OECD report can be accessed at

Ministers of education thank the students, teachers, principals, and other school personnel who gave of their time to participate in PISA 2012.

“For the last number of years we have focused our efforts on improving literacy skills for Prince Edward Island students, but we cannot underestimate the importance of building capacity in mathematics,” said PEI Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Alan McIsaac. “The Ministers of Education in Canada have committed to discussing approaches for improving numeracy for all students and we know that there is more work to be done at the provincial level.”

About CMEC

Founded in 1967, CMEC is the collective voice of Canada’s ministers of education. It provides leadership in education at the pan-Canadian and international levels and contributes to the exercise of the exclusive jurisdiction of provinces and territories over education. For more information, visit us at

Media Contact: Laura Steeves
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