PISA 2009 tested close to half a million 15 year-old students, including 23,000 Canadians, on their skills and knowledge in three core subject areas. The report shows Canadian students rank among the best in the world in reading, mathematics, and science. Only seven countries performed better than Canada in mathematics and only six in science. The major focus was reading, with a secondary focus on mathematics and science.

The main focus in the 2009 testing was on both overall reading literacy and the three reading sub-domains:

  • Accessing and Retrieving
  • Integrating and Interpreting
  • Reflecting and Evaluating


Canada is releasing its own companion report, Measuring up: Canadian Results of the OECD PISA Study, at the same time as the OECD report to provide further information on student performance at the provincial level. Results are compared to other participating countries and across Canadian provinces.

Highlights of the pan-Canadian results include:

  • Canada has a larger proportion of high achievers and a smaller proportion of low achievers compared to the OECD average.
  • Students in nine of the Canadian provinces performed at or above the OECD average in all subject areas.
  • In reading, girls continue to outperform boys. The Canadian results mirror OECD findings.
  • In mathematics, boys outperform girls, but the difference is smaller than the gender difference favouring girls in reading. Once again, the Canadian results mirror OECD findings.
  • In science, Canadian boys outperform girls only slightly; however, on average across OECD countries, boys and girls have similar performance.
  • In most provinces, students attending majority-language school systems outperform students who attend minority-language systems.


The Second Report from the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment was published in November 2011 and complements the first report by looking at the contextual variables associated with reading achievement. It provides information related to student and school factors, and examines variables related to student engagement, attitudes, and approaches to learning in reading.

Highlights of the pan-Canadian results for the second report include:


  • In most provinces, immigrant students performed just as well or even better than their non-immigrant peers.
  • Compared internationally, Canadian performance was not as dependant on parental educational attainment, but this varied by province.
  • The impact of disciplinary climate on achievement was quite consistent across Canada, where more discipline was correlated with higher reading scores.
  • In Canada, teacher-student relations across all provinces are among the most positive, and this factor accounts for a relatively high proportion of variance in student performance in reading.
  • Time spent on reading for enjoyment is positively associated with reading proficiency.
  • Control strategies, which students use to monitor their understanding of texts as they read, have a stronger association with reading proficiency than strategies of memorization and elaboration.


Canadian participation in PISA 2009 was made possible through close collaboration among Canada's three partners, CMEC, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, and Statistics Canada.