The country’s success, which does not have a national education system, defies international trends.
In debates on the best educational systems in the world, the most cited names are usually countries like Norway and Finland, or of powers like Singapore and South Korea.
As well as much less remembered, Canada has risen to the top of international rankings.
In the most recent round of exams of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) ruled by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), Canada has ranked among the top ten countries in mathematics, science, and text interpretation.
The tests are the largest international study of school performance and most of Canada’s youth are among the best educated in the world.
Canada is far ahead of neighbors such as the United States and European countries with whom it has cultural ties, such as the United Kingdom and France.
Canada also has a higher proportion of working-age adults with higher education – 55% compared to an average of 35% of OECD countries.
Canada’s success in school testing is uncommon when compared to international trends.
Countries with better performance tend to be small, with homogeneous and cohesive societies, and with every piece of the education system integrated into a national strategy – as in Singapore, which has been used as an example of systematic progress.
Canada does not even have a national education system, as it is an organization based on autonomous provinces. And it is difficult to imagine a greater contrast between a city-state like Singapore and a country of continental dimensions like Canada.
In an attempt to understand Canada’s success in education, the OECD described the role of the federal government in the sector as “limited and sometimes non-existent.”
It is also well known the fact that Canada has a high number of immigrants in its schools. More than a third of the Canadian youth have both of their parents born in a different country.
The children of the newly arrived immigrant families are integrated fast enough to performance as good as their classmates in a short period of time.
When the latest OECD ranking is analyzed in detail, Canada’s regional results are even more impressive.
If the provinces were considered for the test as separate countries, three of them (Alberta, Quebec and British Columbia) would be among the top five places in science, along with Singapore and Japan and ahead of Finland and Hong Kong.
After all, how has Canada surpassed so many other countries in the area of education?
Andreas Schleicher, director of education at the OECD, says the characteristic that unites the several educational systems is equality.
Despite several differences in educational policies, a common trait among all regions of the country is the commitment to offer equal opportunities in school.
Schleicher says there is a strong sense of balance and equal access – which can be seen in the high academic performance of children of immigrants.
Up to three years later, immigrant students have as higher grades as their colleagues. This makes Canada one of the few countries where immigrant children reach a level similar to that of non-immigrants.
Another distinctive characteristic is that teachers are very well paid in comparison to international standards – and entry into the profession is highly selective.
David Booth, a professor at the Institute for Education Studies at the University of Toronto, highlights a strong base investment in literacy.
There have been systematic efforts to improve literacy, hiring well-trained educators, investment in resources such as libraries in schools and assessments to identify schools or students who may be experiencing difficulties.
John Jerrim of the UCL Institute of Education in London says that Canada’s optimistic performance in international rankings reflects the country’s socioeconomic homogeneity.
The country is not a nation of extremes. On the contrary, its results show a high average, with little difference between the more and less favored students.
In the most recent PISA, the OECD exam, the changing in grades caused by socioeconomic differences among Canadian students was 9%, compared with 20% in France and 17% in Singapore, for example.
More egalitarian results explain why Canada is doing so well in international exams. The country does not even have a residual slice of bad performing students, which is usually something related to poverty.
It’s a consistent system. Considering the little difference between rich and poor students, there is also very little variation between different schools compared to the average of developed countries.
According to Professor Jerrim, the high number of immigrants is not seen as potentially barrier for test success – this is probably one of the ingredients of good results.
Immigrants living in Canada, many from countries such as China, India and Pakistan, have relatively high education, and the ambition to see their children becoming successful professionals.
He says these families are “hungry for success,” and that their high expectations are likely to influence their children’s school performance.
Professor Booth of the University of Toronto also cites this fact. “Many newcomers want their children to succeed, and students are motivated to learn,” he says.
This year has been exceptional for education in Canada. Universities are taking advantage of the “Donald Trump Effect,” with a record enrollment of students viewing Canada as an alternative to the United States after the election of the current president.
The winner of the Global Teacher Award is also Canadian – Maggie MacDonnel is using the award to campaign for the rights of indigenous students.
In the year it celebrates its 150th Anniversary, Canada claims the status of a superpower in education.
Source: BBC Brasil
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