Canadian Youth are on Track in Science According to New Report

TORONTO, October 7, 2014 – A new report released today by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC), offers a detailed portrait of the skills of Canadian youth in Grade 8 (Secondary II in Quebec) in three core learning areas: science, mathematics, and reading.


The Pan-Canadian Assessment Program (PCAP) was first introduced by ministers of education in 2007 to provide robust, comparable data on how well students are doing in provincial education systems. It complements other assessments in each province and territory and ensures that student performance can be compared across the country. PCAP also complements key international studies in which Canada participates, such as OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).


For PCAP 2013, approximately 32,000 Grade 8 students from over 1,500 schools across all 10 provinces were tested in spring 2013. Science was the major focus of the assessment. Math and reading were also assessed.


Today's report shows that Canadian youth are managing well in science. At the pan-Canadian level, 91 per cent of students are achieving the expected level of performance for their grade. Moreover, close to half the students are achieving at an even higher level.


In all provinces, without exception, over 85 per cent of students are achieving at the expected level of performance in science — in some cases, well over 90 per cent.


“Scientific literacy is an essential part of what it means to be an educated and engaged citizen in the 21st century,” said the Honourable Gordon Dirks, Chair of CMEC and Minister of Education for Alberta. “Today's results confirm that our education systems are providing young people a strong foundation in the scientific knowledge and skills needed to make sense of the natural world and our place within it.”


PCAP's three-year cycles began in 2007. With PCAP 2013, some analysis over time is now possible in mathematics and reading.


In mathematics, PCAP data show an improvement in Grade 8 student achievement in most provinces across Canada between 2010 and 2013. Student performance in reading was assessed by PCAP in 2007, 2010, and 2013. In reading, performance was stable across Canada between 2007 and 2013 and showed some improvement between 2010 and 2013.


Some other key findings from today's report:


  • Gender does not appear to be a factor in performance in either science or math at the Grade 8 level in Canada; PCAP data show no significant difference in the performance of girls and boys in either subject. In all provinces, girls continue to perform better than boys in reading. This phenomenon is also observed in PISA and other assessments.


  • Across provinces, Alberta and Ontario students show the highest performance in science, while Ontario and Quebec students achieve higher than the Canadian average in reading and mathematics, respectively.


  • In most provinces with English majority-language school systems, students in the English systems do better in science and reading than students in the French systems. The reverse is true in mathematics: students in the French systems tend to outperform their English counterparts. In Quebec, science and reading results are the same in English and French systems, while students in the French system do better than those in the English system in math.


Students' total scores in each subject area were transposed onto a common scale, ranging from 0 to 1,000, with the average for the pan-Canadian population set at 500.


PCAP 2013 also collected extensive contextual information from questionnaires completed by students, teachers, and principals. This information will be published in late 2014 and should offer insight into some of the factors that may influence student performance.


The next cycle of PCAP is already under way. PCAP 2016 will focus mainly on reading; math and science will also be assessed.


For highlights and the full report, visit: :


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
Cell: 416-777-4879
Tel.: 416-962-8100, ext. 259
Twitter: @CCMEC