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Education Indicators in Canada, Variation in Literacy Skills among Canadian Provinces

October 17, 200517 October 2005

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July 2004 Report:

Education Indicators in Canada summarizes data on education funding, student achievement and the nature of the school-age population in Canada. The most directly arts-related data pertains to reading habits and achievement, although the portrait of the school-age population (and its cultural diversity) should be of interest to anyone working with young people.

In contrast to the ACP report, this study paints an optimistic picture of Canadian indicators of reading achievement. In an assessment of 15-year olds coordinated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Canada achieved its highest ranking in 15 years. In fact, Canada ranked second only to Finland in student reading literacy. When looked at differently, the data shows that Canada has a relatively high percentage of students at the top reading level (17% of students) and a relatively small percentage (10%) at the lowest reading level.

Reading proficiency increased by socio-economic status in all the countries examined. In Canada, reading scores were reasonably high across all socio-economic groups. The report notes that “Canada emerged as one of the world leaders on this indicator”. There is, however, a definite gender difference in reading: females performed better than males in all provinces and in all participating countries.

Although all 10 provinces ranked at or above the OECD average, Variation in Literacy Skills among Canadian Provinces shows that there are significant differences between New Brunswick, the lowest scoring province, and Alberta, the highest scoring province. In addition to probing the factors behind these differences, the report highlights evidence showing that when “schools differ substantially in their socioeconomic intake, the disparities among students in their performance increase: ‘the rich become richer’ (in terms of their reading performance), while ‘the poor become poorer’.”

Another positive finding of the Education Indicators in Canada report is that Canada ranked first among OECD countries in the proportion of its working-age population with a university or college-level education.

The report also highlights data on the reading activities of 4 and 5-year olds, as reported by their parents. “Among 5-year-olds, a large proportion of both girls (78%) and boys (67%) looked at books or tried to read on their own on a daily basis.” Two-thirds of 4 and 5-year-olds were read to every day by an adult. There was no difference between boys and girls on this indicator. However, more girls (65%) than boys (51%) were encouraged to write daily.

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