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