Accelerating Culture

What the U.S. Could Learn From Canada’s Education System

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It isn’t news that Canadians are widely known for their polite manners, and at times, for being overly apologetic. However, we can all take new pride in Canada’s recent high academic ranks across the globe, according to new PISA (Program for International Student Assessments) test results.

On the other hand, in recent news, the U.S. is facing a much different mile-stone on the academic forefront.

According to, The Guardian, teacher strikes are spreading throughout the U.S., including but not limited to, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Arizona. This is due to years of cuts to teacher’s wages and education budgets, as America’s education system reaches a ‘breaking point’.

Though Canada too faces many of its own struggles, perhaps Canadians can set an academic example for our fellow neighbours down south.

C.M. Rubin, the founder of CM RubinWorld, speaks with the principal of the Organization For Economic Co-operative and Development (OECD), Andreas Schleicher. During Rubin’s in-depth interview with Schleicher he introduces, The Global Search for Education: Wanted – Students Smarter Than Their Smart Phones.

Not only does this generation rely on their cell phones for the almost instantaneous gratification of answers to almost anything, but according to Schleicher, it is also not uncommon for only a few academic and government officials to decide what is taught in the curriculum for millions of students.

More importantly, these officials will often defend the scope and integrity of their practice. This is important, as Schleicher protests that much is needed to change in order for students to grow into the future, instead of living in the past of our previous generations.

Schleicher illuminates on the importance of both relevance and quality of education.

He states, It will be our imagination, our awareness and our sense of responsibility that will enable us to harness the opportunities of the 21st century to shape the world for the better.”

He emphasizes on the need for students to think for themselves, as well as the need for empathy, as a working part of tomorrow’s institutions.

The more machines continue to take over, the more humans must be able to contribute meaningfully to social and civic life. In order to move forward in the search for global education, it’s important to pair artificial intelligence of computers with the cognitive, social and emotional skills and values of humans.

It seems that we must equally embrace our innate human abilities, as we continue to embrace the development of new technology, in order to move forward with the reformation of education. This balance of humanity vs. technology could mean a brighter future for generations to come. 

Rubin shares that Schleicher also leads over 70 countries in their efforts to design and implement education and policy practices for a new world. He is also the author of a recent book, World Class: How to Build a 21st Century School System.

Thanks to Schleicher, who is the brilliant mind behind the PISA test, results collected from students aged 15 from different countries across the globe, Canada outranks the U.S. in a number of areas. 

So what is Canada doing differently?

According to the Educational Research NewsletterCanada outranks the U.S. in reading, science, and math. Even more groundbreaking is that Canada has managed to bridge the gaps from children from immigrant families, as well as those from socio-economically disadvantaged households. 

The U.S. on the other hand, ranks 17th in reading, 25th in math and 26th in science, while Canada ranks in the top 10 in all three areas.

According to BBC, if the PISA test results were divided by region in Canada, provinces such as Alberta, B.C. and Quebec rank in the top five for science globally. 

It’s long past due for Canada to be seen as a global leader for more than just mannerisms and an almost obsessive-compulsive habit of saying ‘sorry-a-boot-that’. We are so much more than just nice.

So how has Canada ranked in the top 10 for academic success in the world?

Schleicher shares the importance of a student to be able to extrapolate information from what they’ve learned, all the while being able to apply their knowledge creatively under unique circumstances, instead of simply reproducing the information. 

Furthermore, he illuminates that the key to success is in how standards and examinations translate into the curriculum, materials and instructional practice.

According to Schleicher, the U.S devotes little attention to a curriculum and instructional material that aligns with educational goals, standards, teacher development, and examinations.

A unique example of how Canada has managed to outrank the U.S. in academics creatively, as opposed to simply recycling the same information over and over, is in our relationship with migrant students.

According to BBC, Canada’s young adult population is more than a third from families who have immigrated from another country. The theme here is equity, according to Schleicher while speaking with BBC, in how Canada has chosen to unite with newcomers. 

Fairness and equal access have resulted in high academic performance for migrant students, and this is in balance with non-immigrant students. It surely is a symbiotic relationship that the U.S. could afford to learn from if it chooses to pay attention to this global lesson for our future students.

Equity is essentially how Canada has such a narrow socio-economic gap. Canada has a ‘strong base in literacy’, according to Professor David Booth, as he spoke with BBC.

When it comes to equal opportunity, Canada trains their staff well to be able to identify individuals who are struggling, instead of letting them flounder.

Another great example of this is how Canada demonstrates little difference in the results between children coming from ‘rich vs. poor’ families, and in test results between schools. This is in comparison with the average of other developed countries, like the U.S.

The United States is one of the countries targeted by the OECD, with the data from the PISA results, to help them improve their system, according to the Educational Research NewsletterCanada, along with Finland and Shanghai, is reported as setting examples for U.S education.

Trump may want a wall that divides Canada and the U.S., but evidence from the PISA test might convince him that neighbouring influences might not be such a bad idea. After all, Canada doesn’t just have the competitive grades, we also have the social advantage of playing fair with our neighbours. This both strengthens our international ties and results in high success rates among students, a much-needed foundation for a stronger future in education.

According to BBC, due to a record level of applications from overseas students, Canada is now seen as ‘a North American alternative to the United States.’ BBC emphasizes that universities are now benefiting from the ‘Trump effect’.

Moving forward into this next academic year, we can rest assured that Canadians will now be known for their social and academic intellect, as well as our admirable manners. Let’s hope that the U.S. can catch on. 

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