International testing that confirms the strength of Canada’s education system

What is PISA? 

PISA is the Programme for International Student Assessment, a program of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). 

PISA gives a test every 3 years to randomly selected students in various countries from around the world. The test is designed to evaluate education systems by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students in reading, mathematics and science. 

The most recent PISA test was conducted in 2018 and the results were released in December 2019. Approximately 600,000 students from 79 countries took part.

Why test 15-year-old students?

In most countries, at the age of 15, students can decide whether or not they want to continue their education. They therefore need to be equipped for adult life. The PISA test is designed to gauge how well the students have mastered key subjects in order to be prepared for real-life situations. 

What is the purpose of the test?

The results of the PISA test can be evaluated by governments to assess the effectiveness of their education system and to help shape their education policy.

How well does Canada perform?

Canada as a whole consistently performs very highly on PISA tests. Since the tests started in the year 2000, Canada has consistently been among the top 10 highest ranking countries in the world. In 2018, Canada outperformed almost all other western countries – the only other western countries in the top 10 were Estonia and Finland.

How well does Alberta perform? 

Alberta has consistently been one of the top two highest achieving provinces in Canada. If Alberta was a country, it would rank as the highest English-speaking country.

A developmentally appropriate curriculum developed by teachers, combined with standardized exams in Grades 6, 9 and 12, ensure that the curriculum is effective and accountable.

The results of the 2018 PISA test include:

Reading: Alberta was highest in Canada, with students scoring 532. This was 12 points higher than the Canadian average and 45 points higher than the OECD average of 487.

Internationally, Alberta’s score was tied for third with Macao-China, Hong Kong-China, Ontario and Estonia.

Math: Alberta students achieved a score of 511. Alberta’s score was third highest in Canada, slightly below the Canadian average of 512 and 22 points above the OECD average of 489. 

Internationally, Alberta’s score was tied for ninth place. China (some cities), Singapore, Estonia, Japan, and Korea scored higher than Alberta.

Science: Alberta students again scored highest in Canada, achieving a score of 534. The average score for Canadian students was 518, 45 points higher than the OECD average of 489. 

Internationally, Alberta’s score was tied for fourth. Only students in BSJZ-China, Singapore, and Macao-China achieved scores that were higher than Alberta.

The PISA test results continue to verify Canada and Alberta’s places among the top education systems in the world.