Canadian Students Among the Best in Science, Mathematics, and Reading, Major OECD Study Concludes


Toronto, December 4, 2007 – A major international study released by OECD shows that Canadian 15-year-old students rank among the best in science, mathematics, and reading. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), conducted in 2006 by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), tested over 400,000 students in 57 countries and economies.

Canada released its own report today on the PISA results, providing detailed information on student performance in each province. The report indicates that the performance of Canadian students is well above the international average in all three subject areas. In fact, Canadian students, on average, finished in the top tier of all countries surveyed in every domain tested in the assessment.

In science, only two countries/economies, Finland and Hong Kong–China, surpassed Canadian students in overall test scores. Canada's results in mathematics fall within a group of high-ranking countries that includes Japan, New Zealand, and Belgium. Staying on course with past results in PISA, Canada maintained a strong performance in reading, placing fourth after Korea, Finland, and Hong Kong–China.

The primary focus of the 2006 study was science, with a secondary focus on mathematics and reading. Questionnaires on student and school factors were also administered to gather data that help explain differences in performance.

“In three core subjects — science, mathematics, and reading — students in Canada are among the best in the world,” noted the Honourable Kelly Lamrock, New Brunswick's Minister of Education and Chair of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC). “This report provides us with important comparative data that we can use to gauge improvements in our education systems over time. In all three rounds of testing conducted by OECD since 2000, a consistently strong showing by Canada speaks to the major efforts our schools and teachers devote to ensuring our students are well prepared to succeed in a global economy.”

"My congratulations to students and the learning community on Canada's impressive performance," said the Honourable Monte Solberg, Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC). "Science and technology are key drivers to building a resilient economy for years to come. Encouraging our youth to build strong learning skills will help foster a culture of new ideas and innovation which are integral to building the best-educated, most skilled, and most flexible workforce in the world."

Canadian participation in the PISA study, through the provinces, was made possible thanks to the close collaboration of CMEC, HRSDC, and Statistics Canada. Over 22,000 students from 1,000 different schools across Canada participated in the study.

“PISA 2006 shows that girls and boys do equally well in science, but they excel in different science competencies,” noted Sange de Silva, Director General, Institutions and Social Statistics, Statistics Canada. “It appears that boys may be better at mastering scientific knowledge, whereas girls may be better at seeing the larger picture that enables them to identify scientific questions that arise from a given situation.”

Some of the key findings about the performance of our students that the Canadian report highlights are the following:

  • As in PISA assessments in 2000 and 2003, Canadian students have a top-tier ranking in science, mathematics, and reading.

  • In science, there is little variation in performance according to gender, but, in other subject areas, there is a persistent gender gap. Girls continue to significantly outperform boys in reading. In mathematics, boys tend to do better than girls, but the gender gap is less significant than in reading.

  • In Canada, less than 10 per cent of the variation in students' performance can be explained by socioeconomic background, which is indicative of a high level of equity in a diverse student population.

  • Students in minority-language school systems do not perform as well in science and reading as their counterparts in majority-language school systems. A similar trend can be observed in mathematics but the gap is less pronounced.

  • In science and reading, first-generation students (those born in another country) are outperformed by both native-born and second-generation students (those born in Canada of immigrant parents). In mathematics, there is little variation in performance according to immigrant status.


The Canadian report also provides information on personal and school factors that influence a student's performance in science. For instance, the report examines the relationship between student engagement in science and its impact on course selection, educational pathways, and career choice.

Copies of the Canadian report, Measuring up: Canadian Results of the OECD PISA Study — The Performance of Canada's Youth in Science, Reading and Mathematics can be found at or on the Web sites listed below.

CMEC, the provinces, HRSDC, and Statistics Canada will continue their partnership in order to ensure Canadian participation in the PISA 2009 assessment.

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Hanca Chang
Media Relations
Council of Ministers of Education, Canada
(416) 962-8100, ext. 265

Media Relations
Human Resources and Social Development Canada
(819) 994-5559

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Centre for Education Statistics
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