How are Canadian students performing in the strategically important subject of mathematics? Any useful answer depends on the measures consulted and the standards against which results are compared. Given the exclusive authority over education assigned to Canada’s provincial legislatures, attention must also be given to the relative performance of provincial as well as other national systems. This study reviews the available test results in search of answers to these questions.
Initial and particular attention is given to results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Conducted every three years, this is the most extensive and widely accepted measure of academic proficiency among lower secondary school students around the world. Results over the 2003 to 2018 period show a steady decline in Canada’s math scores. Whereas Canada had the fifth highest score among the 37 countries participating in 2003, it occupied twelfth place among the 78 participating jurisdictions in the most recent 2018 assessment. Even so, Canada had the second highest 2018 math score among G7 countries after Japan, and Canadian math scores have remained significantly higher than the OECD average over this fifteen-year period. Internally, PISA scores declined in every province. Declines were steepest in Manitoba, Alberta, and British Columbia respectively, and least severe in Prince Edward Island and Ontario, with the small drop in Quebec’s scores resulting in an essentially flat profile. Against the broader decline, Quebec’s relatively stable scores gave it a growing lead over all other provinces.
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