"What others can aspire to"

Good news can be important too. “There are many success stories,” OECD Secretary-General Angel Guerra said upon the release of the international PISA school-achievement tests this week. “Shanghai, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Finland, Canada: In very different cultural and economic contexts, their education systems have all been able to achieve strong and equitable education outcomes.”

So out of six countries singled out for the kind of achievement “others can aspire to,” Canada gets a mention. The separate video presentation on schools in Ontario, one of four jurisdictions selected by the OECD for a drill-down, is so flattering to that province’s current government that I’m just going to let you see it for yourself.

Obviously there’s still plenty of room for politics. You can argue that other parties, or a given reform, would produce better results. But one specific feature of Canada’s education systems is worth noting, preserving and working to reinforce: the low correlation between socio-economic background and education outcomes. In Canada more than in almost any country, relative poverty doesn’t lock a student into poor school performance, which means it needn’t lock a young person out of a rewarding career. It’s a huge asset.