High School

Canada outperforms in high school problem solving skills

But immigrants lag behind

Canadian 15-year-old students outperformed their peers in most of the 44 countries where an important new test was administered in 2012 to assess problem solving abilities “for which a routine solution hasn’t been learned.”

The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, which has been testing the reading, math and science skills of students in different countries for more than a decade, added the Creative Problem Solving test because jobs increasingly require high levels of such skills. After all, “skills that can be codified in rules can also be performed by a computer,” warn the authors of the report on the results.

The highest mean scores were in Asia: Singapore, Korea, Japan, Macao, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Chinese Taipei (Taiwan). The next highest averages were from Canada, Australia, Finland and England. The other above average countries were Estonia, France, Netherlands, Italy, Czech Republic, Germany, United States and Belgium. Below average countries included Sweden, Poland, Israel, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates. The worst were Uruguay, Bulgaria and Colombia.

Variation between the best and worst performing high schools was low in Canada suggesting a higher than average degree of equality. Finland, Sweden and Estonia had even lower school-to-school variation than Canada. The highest variations (suggesting inequality) were in Israel, Hungary, Bulgaria, Netherlands and United Arab Emirates.

It is also noted, however, that immigrants performed significantly worse than their non-immigrant peers in Canada. While the United Kingdom’s immigrant students showed an even bigger lag behind native-born students, immigrants to the U.S. and Finland performed roughly as well as non-immigrants.

The authors made a number of recommendations for boosting problem solving abilities including reducing socioeconomic inequalities and revising education policies.