Canadians are above average students in science, math and reading, a worldwide education study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development reported Tuesday.
The ongoing Programme for International Student Assessment study tested 400,000 15-year-old students in 57 countries on science, math and reading comprehension. The tests, which are carried out every three years, assess students based on their ability to apply academic skills to problems in life and the workplace. The 2006 tests, which had a special focus on science, took place between March and November 2006.
Canadian 15-year-olds students placed third on the science test, behind Finland and Hong Kong-China. In the sub-categories of "identifying scientific issues" and "using scientific evidence," Canada placed second behind Finland.
Overall, Canada was among the top performers, scoring well above average, along with Finland, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong-China,Taiwan and Estonia. The United States fell in the middle of the pack in science and reading, and slightly lower in math. The lowest-scoring countries for all subjects were Brazil, Mexico and Luxembourg.
"My congratulations to students and the learning community on Canada's impressive performance,"Human Resources MinisterMonte Solberg said in a release. "Science and technology are key drivers to building a resilient economy for years to come. Encouraging our youth to build strong learning skills will help foster a culture of new ideas and innovation, which are integral to building the best-educated, most skilled and most flexible workforce in the world."
Across Canada, all the provinces performed at or above the OECD average,Human Resources Development Canadasaid in a release. Some provinces, however, performed better than others, with Alberta leading the pack in science and Quebec excelling in math, bothwith scoresabove the national average, HRDC said.
Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan allperformed "significantly" below the national average in science and below average in math and reading,HRDC noted. Manitoba was below average in science.
The other provinces earned scores that at least matched the national average.
Other findings of the OECD study include:
- In science, there is little variation in performance according to gender, but there remains a gender gap in reading and math, with girls significantly outperforming boys in the former, and boys doing slightly better than girls in the latter.
- Students in minority-language school systems do not do as well in science and reading as pupils in majority-language schools. The gap is less pronounced with math.
- In the 30 OECD countries, an average 25 per cent of students reported that they expect to have a science-related careerby age 30.
- Between 35 and 40 per cent of students in Canada, the U.S. and Portugal said they expected a science-related career.
- A minority of students reported that they engaged regularly in science-related activities, with television programs and articles leading the way as the most popular activities, with 21 and 20 per cent.
- Most students were pessimistic about environmental problems being resolved in the future, with fewer than one in six saying that problems such as air pollution and nuclear waste disposal would improve in the next 20 years.
- 93 per cent of students agreed that science is important for understanding the natural world