As you may have read in the paper yesterday, Canada’s students scored quite well in the recent international comparison of educational outcomes. The 2003 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) prepared by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an ongoing review of the performance of the educational system among OECD countries.
The biggest news from this report as it relates to New Brunswick, is that we are now no longer in last place among the ten provinces. This is not due to a major surge by New Brunswick students but a significant drop by PEI students.
While Canada as a whole scored very well on this assessment, the fact that New Brunswick continues to perform badly compared to the rest of Canada continues to be a concern. For example, only PEI scored lower than New Brunswick on mathematics. In addition, only 14% of New Brunswick students were classified as having a high level of skill in mathematics compared to 27% in Alberta, 24% in Quebec and 22% in British Columbia. New Brunswick students also scored second lowest in Canada for reading, science and problem solving skills. Again, only PEI ranked lower than NB.
One of the main conclusions of the report is that students with a higher socio-economic status had higher test scores. New Brunswick is tied with Newfoundland for the lowest socio-economic status in Canada (according to the report), that explains the lower test scores.
This is obviously a classic chicken and egg scenario. We need to raise educational performance to generate rising socio-economic outcomes but we need to have higher socio-economic outcomes to see higher educational performance.
My assessment? New Brunswick needs to make a serious effort to increase educational performance. Continuing to score among the worst in Canada will contribute to our declining economic performance.