It is no surprise that the US educational institutions dominate the rankings of the world’s best colleges. The US runs eight out of ten best universities in the world, including such giants as Columbia University, Harvard University, Princeton and Yale Universities, as well as other no less prominent members of the Ivy League.
Despite that, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) puts the United States on the sixth level of adult education. As per OECD definition, adult education level is the percentage of people between the ages of 25 and 64, who have completed some sort of tertiary education, including a vocational program, two-year degree or four-year degree programs. This ranking only concerns 35 developed countries, members of OECD.
It is Canada that tops the list of the most educated OECD countries. According to the data of OECD, over 56% of adult population of the country has earned some kind of education besides high school. In this list, Canada is followed by Japan (50.5%), Israel (49.9%), Korea (46.86%), and the United Kingdom (45.96%). Notably, the average level of adult education in OECD countries is just 35%.
According to Canadian Prime-Minister, Justin Trudeau, “We need the education to enable people to learn, think, and adapt. Our natural resources are important, and they always will be. But Canadians know that what it takes to grow and prosper isn’t just what’s under our feet, it’s what between our ears.”
It’s not only in adult education that Canada has something to be proud of. OECD also runs the so-called Pisa tests. These tests represent a major study of educational performance; and according to these tests, Canadian teenagers are among the best educated in the world. Canada was one of a few countries to appear in the top 10 for science, math and reading.
Canadian phenomenal success in school tests is even more surprising because the usual top performers in this category are usually compact countries with highly centralized educational system and an overarching national strategy for each part of the education system. In contrast, Canadian education system is based on autonomous provinces and doesn’t really have a nation-wide education system.
In fact, OECD described the role of the Canadian federal government as “limited” and sometimes even “non-existent.” This might explain Canada’s success, as each individual province acts like a cohesive, compact society with their own education guidelines and freedom. In other words, Canada’s success is a total of each individual success of each province and territory.
As far as the recent Pisa rankings are concerned, Canada has even more remarkable results if its performance is analyzed at regional rather than national level. If Canadian provinces participated in Pisa rankings as individual countries, the three of them (British Columbia, Quebec and Alberta) would be in the top five locations for science in the world, ranking along Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Finland.
There are other reasons why Canada enjoys such success in education. One of them is the role of immigrants. Canada is proud to be an immigrant-friendly country. It is a well-known fact that a third of Canadian teenagers are from families where both parents came from another country. The children in migrant families seem to integrate rapidly in the school system, aiming to perform at the same high level as their classmates. Besides, the well-developed Canadian immigration system ensures that many people with great education enter the country, including M.A., M.Sc. and Ph.D. degree holders. The immigrant families are usually rather educated.
According to Andreas Schleicher, OECD’s educational director, Canada’s strong point is the “big uniting theme of equity.” He explains that all provinces are committed to an equal chance at school, despite the different policies. He further adds that Canadian high schools foster a strong sense of fairness and equal success, which is in part responsible for the high academic performance of children from migrant families.
Another distinguishing feature of the Canadian education system is that entry into the teaching profession in Canada is rather selective, and Canada’s teachers receive high remuneration for their work.
Not a country of extremes, Canada shows very little difference between advantaged and disadvantaged children, with a narrow socioeconomic gap in school results. So Canada is doing so well in international tests because, among other reasons, there is no underachievement related to poverty. Canada has a remarkable consistent economic system. With little variations between rich and poor students, there is also very little variation in academic results in schools compared to those of developed countries.
According to Professor John Jerrim of the UCL Institute of Education in London, the high levels of immigration in Canada are part of Canada’s success story in education. Many immigrant families (if not all!) want to succeed in the new country; they have high levels of expectations, which are also likely to boost school results of their children. Many Canadian families want their children to excel at school, and students are really motivated to learn.
The year 2017 was a bumper year for Canada in terms of education, with many overseas students seeing Canada as a North American alternative to the United States. Just 150 years after its founding, Canada is proud to claim the status of an education superpower.
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