Canada's 15-year-old students among best global performers in science, math

A new OECD survey finds that Canadian students fare better in science and math than most of their peers around the world, but there's room for improvement.

Students in Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia among the best in the country

Canadian high school students are faring better than those in most other OECD countries. (Laura DaSilva/CBC)

Canadian 15-year-olds are among the best in the world in science and science-based technology, according to a new report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Canada ranked fourth among OECD countries, tied with Finland and surpassed only by Singapore, Japan and Estonia, according to the report involving 540,000 students from around the world. Among all participating countries and economies, Canada ranked fourth.

The ranking comes from the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which surveys adolescents every three years for their proficiency in science, math and reading. The focus of the testing, however, is science.

The results didn't differ much from 2006, when Canadian teens also were ranked high in science. In both 2009 and 2012, however, students scored slightly lower than in 2015.

Despite the high ranking for Canada, the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, concluded in its report on the findings "that there is cause for some concern."

"Almost one in 10 Canadian students do not meet the benchmark level of science proficiency, a proportion which has not changed since the baseline year in 2006, and students in minority-language settings achieve lower results in science compared to their counterparts in majority-language settings," it said.

When it comes to mathematics and reading, 15-year-old students in Canada also performed well above the OECD average. Only Singapore surpassed Canada in reading.

Canada was also one of the highest-performing countries when it came to equity between boys and girls.

Provincially, students in Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia performed particularly well in science, among the best with the highest-performing countries and economies. 

Approximately 20,000 students were tested across 10 provinces in both English and French.

"The results from PISA 2015 are extremely gratifying. In every domain, Canada is not only near the very top internationally, we have increased our ranking since PISA 2012," Doug W. Currie, chair of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, and minister of education, early learning and culture for Prince Edward Island, said in a press release.


Nicole Mortillaro

Senior reporter, science

Based in Toronto, Nicole covers all things science for CBC News. As an amateur astronomer, Nicole can be found looking up at the night sky appreciating the marvels of our universe. She is the editor of the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and the author of several books. In 2021, she won the Kavli Science Journalism Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science for a Quirks and Quarks audio special on the history and future of Black people in science. You can send her story ideas at