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Despite a 15-point drop in scores, Canadian students still rank 9th in the world for math.

According to a new global report, Canadian high school students ranked among the top 10 countries on an international math and reading test. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Developments’ (OECD) study tested the math, reading, and science knowledge and skills of 15-year-old students at 867 schools from every province in Canada. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test results revealed that Canadian students scored higher than the OECD average in mathematics, reading, and science, with Canada scoring ninth overall in math, and the only country in North America to make the top 10. Canada also scored sixth in reading and seventh in science. Despite this, Canadian students have seen a sharp decline in scores. Over the last 20 years, math scores have dropped 15 points, reading scores have dropped 13 points, and science scores have experienced a three-point decline. Furthermore, only 12 percent of Canadian students ranked as high math achievers compared to 41 percent in Singapore, 29 percent in China, and 23 percent in Japan.

Math scores have seen an overall drop, with only 78 percent of Canadian students reaching at least Level 2 proficiency in math, below top-scoring Singapore’s 85 percent. Experts attribute this decline in part to school shutdowns and out-of-class learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the pandemic may have certainly impacted the most recent scores, the downward trend in math scores began long before 2022. Math education professional development and the way math is being taught in the classroom are also considered contributing factors.

Despite these challenges, Canadian students perform well in reading and science. Canada ranked eighth overall in reading and science scores, the best among North American countries. Additionally, 14 percent scored at a Level 5 or higher in reading, and 85 percent of students in Canada attained Level 2 or higher in science, above OECD averages. Meanwhile, Quebec students had the highest math scores in the country, and male students outperformed female students by 12 points in math, while girls scored 24 points higher than boys in reading.

In conclusion, the international study demonstrates the ongoing performance of Canadian high school students, pointing to areas for improvement in ending the period of math and reading decline.

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