Canadian math, science scores dip: OECD study

A new international study ranks Canadian students among the top of the class in key subject areas, but there has been a noticeable decline over the years in math and science scores among the country’s pupils.

TORONTO, Ontario — A new international study ranks Canadian students among the top of the class in key subject areas, but there has been a noticeable decline over the years in math and science scores among the country’s pupils.

Canada was among 65 countries and economies participating in the assessment by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which takes place every three years. Findings of the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment — or PISA — from 2012 were released Tuesday. Canada released its own companion report, “Measuring Up: Canadian Results of the OECD PISA Study.”

More than 500,000 15-year-old students were tested on their knowledge and skills in three subject areas. The primary focus was on mathematics with a smaller proportion of students assessed in reading and science.

Around 21,000 Canadians from about 900 schools across the country’s 10 provinces took part. Canada’s three territories elected not to participate.

Scores are taken from students assessed in each OECD country and pooled together and set at an average of 500 points, which is the baseline used for the study. The average estimated score in math was 494. Canada had 518. Shanghai, China topped the list in math with an average of 613.

Canada was also outperformed by Singapore, Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei, Korea, Macau, Japan, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

Canada had an average score of 523 in reading and 525 in science — well above the OECD averages of 496 and 501, respectively.

Shanghai topped the list in both reading and science with 570 and 580, respectively. Canada was outperformed in both subjects by Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Korea. Finland and Estonia also fared better than Canada in science.

While Canada was among the high-level achievers, performance of the country’s 15-year-olds in math has declined, with a 14-point dip in the past nine years. While performance in reading has remained relatively stable, the decline in science performance was “statistically significant,” dipping from an average of 534 in 2006 and 529 in 2009.

Along gender lines, boys continued to outperform girls in math across most participating countries — including Canada — while girls placed ahead of boys in Canada and internationally in reading. The performance was similar among boys and girls in science.