Provinces Release the Latest Results on the Performance of Grade 8 Students in Reading, Math, and Science

TORONTO, April 30, 2018 – A new report released today by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC), presents a detailed portrait of the skills of Canadian youth in Grade 8 (Secondary II in Quebec) in three core areas of learning: reading, mathematics, and science.

The Pan-Canadian Assessment Program (PCAP) was first introduced by ministers of education in 2007 to provide robust, comparable data on how well students are doing in provincial education systems. It complements other assessments in each province and territory and provides a way for student performance to be compared across the country. PCAP also complements key international studies in which Canada participates, such as OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

For PCAP 2016, approximately 27,000 Grade 8 students from close to 1,500 schools across all 10 provinces were tested in spring 2016. Reading was the primary focus of the assessment this time. Math and science were also assessed.

Today’s report shows that, at the pan-Canadian level, 88 per cent of Canadian students in Grade 8 achieve the level of performance in reading that is expected of them. Furthermore, 14 per cent exceed this level. In each of the 10 provinces, without exception, over 80 per cent of students are achieving at the expected level of performance in reading—in one case, over 90 per cent.

PCAP’s three-year cycles began in 2007. With PCAP 2016, some analysis over time is now possible in all three domains—reading, mathematics, and science.

In reading, PCAP data show that achievement in Grade 8 improved or remained stable in provinces across Canada between 2010 and 2016. In mathematics, there were significant improvements in achievement in Canada overall and in almost all provinces between 2010 and 2016. In science, performance improved across Canada and in half of the provinces between 2013 and 2016.

“Canadian students continue to demonstrate the high levels of achievement that are vital to Canada’s social and economic development in the 21st century,” said the Honourable Rob Fleming, Minister of Education, British Columbia. “These latest PCAP results show continued improvement in reading, mathematics, and science at the pan-Canadian level and in many provinces. Canadians should be proud that our students are raising the performance bar.”

Some other key findings from today’s report:

  • In all provinces, girls continue to outperform boys in reading. This is also observed in PISA and other assessments. In Canada overall, PCAP 2016 showed no gender difference in achievement in mathematics at the Grade 8/Secondary II level; however, the results were different in PISA 2015 mathematics, where boys outperformed girls at age 15. In science, girls outperformed boys in Canada overall and in four provinces; however, no gender gap was found in the other provinces or for 15-year-olds in PISA 2015.

  • Across provinces, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island perform at the Canadian average in reading. The highest scores in mathematics and science were achieved by students in Quebec and Alberta, respectively.
  •  At the pan-Canadian level, higher achievement was found in reading in English-language schools and in mathematics in French-language schools; performance in science was found to be similar in both French- and English-language schools.

  • In most provinces with English majority-language school systems, students in the English systems do better in science and reading than students in the French systems. The reverse is true in mathematics: students in the French systems tend to outperform their English counterparts. In Alberta and Manitoba, mathematics results are the same in the English and French systems, just as there is no significant difference in science results between the two school systems in British Columbia and New Brunswick.

Students’ total scores in each subject area were transposed onto a common scale, ranging from 0 to 1,000, with the average for the pan-Canadian population set at 500 for the baseline year for each subject. Trends over time are identified by whether the number is above or below 500 in subsequent assessments.

PCAP 2016 also collected extensive contextual information from questionnaires completed by students, teachers, and principals. This information will be published later in 2018 and should offer insight into some of the factors that may influence student performance in reading.

The next cycle of PCAP is already under way. PCAP 2019 will focus on math; reading and science will also be assessed.

For highlights and the full PCAP 2016 report, visit:


About CMEC

Founded in 1967, CMEC is the collective voice of Canada’s ministers of education. It provides leadership in education at the pan-Canadian and international levels and contributes to the exercise of the exclusive jurisdiction of provinces and territories over education.

CMEC celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017. For more information, visit us at



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 Colin Bailey
Director, Communications and Governance
Cell: 437-777-4879
Tel.: 416-962-8100, ext. 259
Twitter: @CCMEC