91% of Ontario Grade 10 students meet or exceed critical science benchmark in international study: Achievement gap between rich and poor students among lowest in the world



    TORONTO, Dec. 4 /CNW/ - Ontario's education system gets high marks for
both excellence and equity, according to the results of the 2006 Programme for
International Student Assessment (PISA), which were released today by the
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Ontario's Grade
10 students performed among the best in the world on this international study,
which is undertaken every three years to assess the performance of
15-year-olds in science, reading and mathematics. Fifty-seven countries and
ten Canadian provinces participated in the 2006 assessment.
    In science, the major focus of PISA 2006, Ontario students performed at
the Canadian average; only students in Finland and Hong Kong-China had better
overall science achievement than those in Canada. The average score of Ontario
students in overall science achievement has increased by a significant 15
points since 2000. This represents the largest gain by any Canadian province -
well above the five-point increase seen in the overall Canadian average during
that same period.
    PISA defines six levels of achievement, with Level 2 representing the
critical level of science literacy at which students begin to demonstrate the
kind of knowledge and skills needed to effectively use science competencies.
In Ontario, a remarkable 91% of Grade 10 students performed at or above this
level.
    "In today's world, strong abilities in science, math and reading are
obviously essential to the personal progress of individuals and our society,"
said Charles Pascal, Chair of EQAO's Board of Directors. "The results of
Ontario students on this assessment provide a good indication that they are
well prepared for what's ahead."
    In addition to being one of the top performing jurisdictions, Ontario
showed a smaller difference in achievement between students in high and low
socio-economic environments than most other countries - a 61-point difference
in scores compared to the average 119 score points for all countries in the
OECD.
    "This is a tremendous validation of Ontario's public education system and
the teaching community in our secondary schools," stated Marguerite Jackson,
Chief Executive Officer of EQAO. "Our educators have clearly been among the
most successful in the world at reducing the impact of socio-economic factors
on student learning."
    EQAO coordinated Ontario's participation in PISA 2006, and a document
highlighting Ontario student results is available at www.eqao.com. The OECD
has published a full international report for PISA 2006, and the Council of
Ministers of Education, Canada, which managed Canada's participation in this
study, has released a report on Canadian achievement.

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    BACKGROUNDER

    About PISA

    -  The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an
       international program initiated by the Organisation for Economic Co-
       operation and Development (OECD) to assess the achievement of 15-year-
       old students in three domains: reading, mathematics and science.
    -  PISA was first implemented in 2000 and is repeated every three years
       with each cycle providing detailed assessment in one of the three
       domains - also called the major domain - and summary assessments in
       the other two - also known as minor domains.
    -  In PISA 2006, science was the major domain, whereas reading and
       mathematics were studied as minor domains.
    -  In PISA 2006, science included three competencies, also referred to as
       sub-domains, which were
       -  identifying scientific issues;
       -  explaining phenomena scientifically and
       -  using scientific evidence.
    -  In PISA 2006, science achievement was divided into six proficiency
       levels representing a group of tasks of increasing difficulty, with
       Level 6 as the highest and Level 1 as the lowest. Level 2 was
       identified as the critical level of science literacy or the level of
       achievement on the PISA scale at which students begin to demonstrate
       the scientific competencies that will enable full participation in
       life situations related to science and technology.
    -  In 2006, 57 countries participated in the administration of PISA,
       including all 30 OECD countries. In Canada, about 22 000 15-year-old
       students from 10 provinces participated, of which 2928 were from
       Ontario.

    Additional Ontario Results

    -  A significantly higher proportion of students in Ontario performed at
       Level 5 or above in science. The OECD average was approximately 9% -
       six percentage points lower than the average of 15% for Ontario. Only
       two countries and one province (Finland, New Zealand and Alberta) had
       significantly greater percentages of students with higher skills than
       Ontario.
    -  Compared to the OECD average, a significantly smaller proportion of
       Canadian students performed at Level 1 or below in overall science
       achievement. The proportion at Level 1 or below for Ontario was over
       half of the OECD average (9% and 19% respectively). Only Finland and
       Estonia had a significantly smaller proportion of students at Level 1
       or below than Ontario.
    -  There were no gender differences on the combined science scale in
       Ontario. Across all countries participating in PISA 2006, 10 countries
       showed an advantage of boys over girls while 13 countries showed an
       advantage of girls over boys. For the remaining countries there were
       no significant gender differences on the combined science scale.
    -  Canadian students reported higher levels of general interest in
       science, higher levels of enjoyment of science, higher levels of
       belief that science will be useful for future employment or education
       (instrumental motivation) and higher levels of belief that they will
       study and work in the field of science as an adult (future-oriented
       science motivation). In contrast, Canadian youth were less likely to
       participate in science activities outside of the school than their
       peers in other OECD countries. Youth in the top quarter of the indices
       of interest in science scored between 54 to 88 points higher than
       their counterparts in the bottom quarter of the indices. This
       relationship between interest in science and science performance also
       held true across the provinces, including Ontario.
    -  In Ontario, English-language students outperformed French-language
       students in all three subjects, which was also the case in Nova
       Scotia, New Brunswick and Manitoba for reading and science. There was
       no significant difference between the language groups in Nova Scotia
       and Manitoba in mathematics. In Quebec, French-language students
       outperformed English-language students in science and mathematics, but
       there was no significant difference in reading. PISA 2006 results show
       that minority-language students tend to perform less well than
       majority-language students across the studied domains.
    

    About EQAO

    The Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) acts as a catalyst
for increasing the success of Ontario students by measuring their achievement
in reading, writing and mathematics against a common curriculum benchmark. As
an independent provincial agency, EQAO plays a pivotal role by conducting
province-wide tests at key points in every student's primary, junior and
secondary education and reporting the results. The objective and reliable
facts obtained add to the current knowledge about student learning and are an
important tool for improvement at the individual, school and provincial
levels.




For further information:

For further information: and to arrange interviews, please contact Phil
Serruya, Manager of Communications and Public Affairs, (416) 325-2230,
phil.serruya@eqao.com

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Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO)

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