Canadian students among the highest achievers in reading according to new OECD report

TORONTO, December 3, 2019 – The results from a major international study released today by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) put Canadian students among the highest achievers in the world in reading.

The 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 2018 focused on reading as its major domain, with mathematics and science as secondary domains. It was administered to approximately 600,000 students in 79 countries and economies. In Canada, over 22,000 students from just over 800 schools, in all 10 provinces, took part in the assessment.

Through the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC), the provinces are releasing their 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 in each province.

Here are the highlights for Canada from PISA 2018:

  • Canadian 15-year-olds placed well above the OECD average and are among the world’s top performers in reading. Of the 79 countries and economies participating in the assessment, only three—the economies of BSJZ (China) and Macao (China), and the country of Singapore—outperformed Canada.
  • Eighty-six percent of Canadian students performed at or above Level 2 in reading, the baseline level of proficiency required to take advantage of further learning opportunities and participate fully in modern society. The OECD average was only 77 percent.
  • Canadian students performed strongly in science and mathematics as well: only two economies and three countries surpassed Canada in science; only three economies and six countries performed better in mathematics.

Other key findings from PISA 2018 include the following:

  • Fifteen percent of Canadian students are top performers (performance levels 5 and 6) in reading. Only 9 percent of students, on average, across OECD countries, were top performers.
  • Alberta performed particularly well in reading and ranked with the highest‑performing countries and economies in the assessment. British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador were all on par with Canada’s overall strong performance.
  • On average across Canada, there was a gender gap in favour of girls in reading: 90 percent of girls attained Level 2 or higher, compared to 82 percent of boys. This type of disparity exists in most economies and countries participating in PISA 2018 as well as in all Canadian provinces.
  • The top performer in mathematics was Quebec; the top performer in science was Alberta.
  • In mathematics, boys continue to outperform girls in Canada. In science, there was no significant variation in performance by gender at the pan-Canadian level.
  • There was no significant difference in reading performance between anglophone and francophone school systems in Quebec. In Canada overall and in six provinces, students in the majority-language system outscored those in the minority-language one.

Canadian participation in PISA 2018 was made possible through cooperation between the provinces, working through CMEC, and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).

The Canadian report can be found at The OECD report can be accessed at

Ministers responsible for education wish to thank the students, teachers, principals, and other school personnel who gave of their time to participate in PISA 2018.

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



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Colin Bailey
Director, Communications and Governance
Cell: 437-777-4879
Tel.: 416-962-8100, ext. 259
Twitter: @CCMEC