Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)

PISA 2000 was the first time that the OECD international tests of the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students were administered.  Thirty-two countries participated, involving more than 250,000 students.  In Canada, there were approximately 30,000 students from 1,100 schools in all ten provinces who took the tests in English or French.  A large sample was needed to provide reliable estimates for each province and for both the French and English language school systems in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.

Reading was the major domain in 2000, with retrieving information, interpreting, and reflecting seen as the key skills in reading.  The minor domains were science and mathematics.  Students also completed a questionnaire on factors contributing to student achievement, including family background, home environment, parental involvement, and parental expectations.  Analyzing the results of a questionnaire given to school principals provided information on the impact of school characteristics on achievement. PISA 2000 was linked with the Youth in Transition Survey.

The report, Measuring up: The performance of Canada's youth in reading, mathematics and science: OECD PISA Study – First results for Canadians aged 15, presents comparisons of the performance of Canadian students in an international context, results on a provincial level, and information on the influences on student achievement.

  • Overall, Canadian students performed well compared with students in most other countries
  • Only Finland performed significantly better than Canada in the major domain of reading, with New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, and Japan at about the same level of performance.
  • Korea and Japan performed significantly better in mathematics, and Japan, Korea, and Finland performed significantly better in science.


Highlights of the provincial results include

  • The majority of provinces performed as well as the top-ranked countries; all provinces were at or above the OECD average.  There were significant differences in the provincial results in all three domains.
  • In PISA 2000, girls performed significantly better than boys on the reading test in all countries and in all provinces.  There was no significant difference is science performance between the genders; there were small gender differences in mathematics favouring boys but these were much less significant than the differences in reading.
  • In all provinces except Quebec, students in minority language education systems performed at a significantly lower level in reading than did students in the majority system in the same province. In mathematics, the difference favouring the majority system were evident in only one province, while in science, students in the anglophone system outperformed those in the francophone minority system in four provinces. In Quebec, there were no significant differences in any domain.
  • Socioeconomic status is less directly related to achievement in Canada than in many other countries.