How Canada became an education superpower

The BBC reports that when there are debates about the world’s top performing education systems, the names that usually get mentioned are the Asian powerhouses such as Singapore and South Korea or the Nordic know-alls, such as Finland or Norway.

In the most recent round of international Pisa tests, Canada was one of a handful of countries to appear in the top 10 for maths, science and reading.

The tests, run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), are a major study of educational performance and show Canada’s teenagers as among the best educated in the world.

Canada does not even really have a national education system, it is based on autonomous provinces and it is hard to think of a bigger contrast between a city state such as Singapore and a sprawling land mass such as Canada.

Also not widely recognised is that Canada has a high level of migrants in its school population. More than a third of young adults in Canada are from families where both parents are from another country. But the children of newly-arrived, migrant families seem to integrate rapidly enough to perform at the same high level as their classmates.

Within three years of arriving, the Pisa tests show the children of new migrants have scores as high as the rest of their schoolmates. It makes Canada one of the few countries where migrant children achieve at a level similar to their non-migrant counterparts.

In the most recent Pisa results for science, the variation in scores in Canada caused by socio-economic differences was 9%, compared with 20% in France and 17% in Singapore. It is a remarkably consistent system. As well as little variation between rich and poor students, there is very little variation in results between schools, compared with the average for developed countries.

If Canadian provinces entered Pisa tests as separate countries, three of them, Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec, would be in the top five places for science in the world, alongside Singapore and Japan and above the likes of Finland and Hong Kong.

Read more How Canada became an education superpower

Should the UK be taking a closer look at Canada? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

Are you a trainee teacher, NQT, teacher, headteacher, parent or  just someone who cares about education and has something to get off  your chest in a Schools Improvement Guest Post? Follow this link for more details at the bottom of the page.

Don’t forget you can sign up to receive our daily email bulletin (around 7am) with all the latest schools news stories. Your details will never be given to anyone else and you can unsubscribe at any stage. Just follow this link.

We now have a Facebook page - please click to like!





How can we create a culture of excellence in schools?
Doctors want pupils to be taught about breastfeeding
Categories: Exams, Learning, Overseas and University.


  1. Frank

    In Canada, there are two school systems – state and Catholic. In order to be able to study in a Catholic school, one must be baptized and profess the Catholic faith. Catholics in Canada make up 46% of believers, and 35% are Protestants. The curriculum in both systems is identical. In Catholic schools, students take lessons in religion. Both systems are funded by public funds. In addition to the above, there are also private schools.
    For example, even in USA, we have better education system in, than in school

Let us know what you think...