We could be doing worse, but research does show that Canada has a literacy problem.
So, if that’s the case, why would the Conservatives cut $17.7 million CDN from adult and family literacy programs? This is old news, but it made no sense then, and it still doesn’t. Adult literacy has a very direct and measure impact on the economy. From ABC Canada:
A rise of one per cent in literacy scores relative to the international average is associated with an eventual 2.5-per-cent relative rise in labour productivity and a 1.5-per-cent rise in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per person, according to Statistics Canada.
So as Canada is possibly heading into recession, might it not make sense to restore some of this funding to its previous level, if not increase it? Unfortunately, the Conservatives have been fairly consistent in their disregard for evidence-informed policy and common sense.
Those interested in the environment may have missed some relevant findings from the 2006 OECD‘s PISA Science assessment results. The education findings are well-known (Canadian youth score highly both on raw achievement and on equity measures), but less well-known is the fact that the Science assessment also gauged youths’ awareness of and attitudes towards environmental issues.
- ranked 7th on awareness of environmental issues
- were slightly below the OECD average when it came to concern for these issues,
- were below average on their optimism that these environmental problems will be improved in the next 20 years
- were at the OECD average on measures surrounding responsibility for sustainable development
It’s worth noting that students from the “most culpable countries” (in which we could include, according roughly to consumption and pollution per capita: Canada, the USA, the UK, Australia, New Zealand) were all below the OECD average for concern about environmental issues.
What would be interesting would be a measure that related, say, per capita carbon output to awareness/concern for environmental issues. If these PISA results are representative of a broader trend, I imagine Canada would fall seriously short on such an indicator.
I think all we can really say for now is that “we think there’s something there, but we’re not sure what”.
A cursory glance at the recent PISA figures on student achievement in science seem to show no macro-level relationship between achievement on the one hand, and sense of belonging and participation on the other. For instance, the highest-scoring countries in the domains of literacy, science and math (which include Finland, Canada, Hong-Kong, etc.) are all over the map in terms of sense of belonging and participation.
Both Canada and Finland rank fairly low with regard to sense of belonging and participation, while Hong-Kong has a very high level of participation, but a very low level of belonging (same for Japan, which also tends to score highly on the OECD tests). Luxembourg, which ranks quite low on the science achievement scale, manifests a fairly high level of student participation, combined with low sense of belonging.
Three obvious scenarios (and there are probably more, less obvious ones) present themselves as possible explanations:
- There is no relationship between participation/sense of belonging and achievement
- There is a direct relationship of some sort between the measures of engagement and achievement, but it only turns up at the meso or micro levels (individual student, or perhaps the classroom)
- There is in fact a macro level relationship, but my first-year university Stats 150 course did not provide me with the analytical skills to discern it
Whatever the case, the relationships merit further study. Good luck running a randomized controlled trial on that one.