Manitoba scores improve but students still last in reading, science, math

Manitoba Grade 8 students' marks improved in national standardized testing, but their scores are still dead last in reading, science and math.

Scores have improved in all 3 categories since 2010 testing, but Manitoba still lags behind

Manitoba Grade 8 students' scores in a standardized test are improving, but not fast enough to move out of last place. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba students' scores are still dead last in reading, science and math on a national standardized test, although their marks have improved over tests done in 2010 and 2013.

A report from the Council of Ministers of Education says Manitoba Grade 8 students tested in 2016 were consistently below the Canadian average in those three categories. The results were released Monday in the Report on the Pan-Canadian Assessment of Reading, Mathematics and Science.

"How can we not be a little disappointed in the results?" said Manitoba Education Minister Ian Wishart.

There have been some short-term initiatives aimed at improving scores, but more needs to be done to get Manitoba students closer in line with other provinces, he said.

"We know that other provinces have been able to make improvements, so it's a doable outcome and we certainly want to do it not only for Manitoba but for those individual students."

PCAP tests students' science, math and reading every three years, with a focus on one of the three subjects in each testing cycle. The focus in this report was on reading.


Though the needle appears to be moving in the right direction in Manitoba, reading scores among Grade 8 students in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador lagged behind the national average.  

At 487, Manitoba students in 2016 scored 18 points higher than they did on reading in 2013; however, Manitoba's most recent results are still 20 points behind the national mean of 507.

Manitoba students scored significantly below the national mean for reading test scores. (PCAP)

The vast majority of Manitoba students achieved baseline reading levels expected of Grade 8 students. Eighty-three per cent of Manitoba students achieved at least a Level 2 reading level, compared to the 88 per cent average Canada-wide. Among those, nine per cent of Manitoba students read at the more elite Level 3 standard — lower than the national average of 14 per cent.

Meanwhile, scores in Manitoba's French school system lagged behind; 71 per cent of French students could read at the Level 2 mark or better, in contrast to 83 per cent of their English counterparts.

Nationally, English scores were nine points higher than those of French students. In Manitoba, the gulf was far greater. French students scored 450 compared to 488 for English students.


Canadian Grade 8 students are trending upward in math scores, and so too are Manitoba students. Manitoba students improved 11 points since 2010, moving from 468 to 479 in 2016.

But as with reading, Manitoba students aren't keeping pace nationally. The score of 479 is a full 32 points below the Canadian mean (511) and last among the provinces. Quebec was the only province above the national mean.

Manitoba students scored 32 points behind the national average in math. (PCAP)

Manitoba French school system students (474) and girls (478) were slightly behind English (479) and male students (480) in 2016 in math.

Nationally, Francophone students outperformed English students, whereas in Manitoba they had similar scores.


Although Manitoba science scores improved across genders and language groups from 2013 to 2016, scores in the lab also ranked below Canada's average.

Manitoba and Saskatchewan tied for last place (491), 17 points below the Canadian average (508).

Manitoba students scored 17 points below the national average in science. (PCAP)

English students outperformed French students in science in Manitoba, though at the Canadian level the different language groups had fairly close scores.

Girls attained higher scores than boys — a pattern detected at the national level, too — but both were still lower than the Canadian average for their gender groups.

Minister Wishart said the province just wrapped a "major consultation process" in recent months and the province is working on early childhood education focused on literacy and numeracy to improve scores over the long term.

With files from Bryce Hoye and Meaghan Ketcheson