Culture, Tourism and the Centre for Education Statistics
A Profile of Minority-Language Students and Schools in Canada: Results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), 2009
3. Minority-language students
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- 3.1 Students, Family and Home Life
- 3.2 15 year-old student life
- 3.3 Schooling and academic performance
- 3.4 Performance on the PISA skill assessments
- 3.4.1 Performance in Reading Literacy
- 3.4.2 Performance in Mathematics and Science
- 3.5 Looking ahead – Career paths and Post-secondary education (PSE)
Individual student characteristics such as gender, immigration status, and family economic status have been shown to be related to student's personal and academic success. In addition, contexts within the home, such as access to computers and the internet, or having a quiet place to study have also been associated with academic success. Developing a profile of minority-language students in Canada expands our understanding of these students, their specific profile and characteristics, and ways in which they may differ significantly from majority-language students. The following sections create a profile of students in minority-language schools along these types of characteristics. This enhances the ability to make programme and policy decisions that are appropriate to this population.
High school experiences and academic success can vary significantly between male and female students depending on the issue under discussion – interruption or incompletion of high school, learning styles, etc.1 The gender balance within a school population necessarily influences the types of issues the school will need to address and the relative success of the students. The distribution of males and females in the minority student populations did not differ to any significant degree from that of the majority student population. In both cases, the distribution of males and females was fairly equal. It is clear that parents of children entitled to a minority-language education do not make the decision to pursue this type of education based on gender. Consequently, minority-language schools face the same gender-based situations, such as school leaving, as do their majority-language counterparts (Table 4).
Minority-language students were far more likely, often to a significant degree, to have been born in Canada or to have at least one parent who was born in Canada relative to majority-language students (85.0% and 74.8% respectively). A significant difference between minority and majority-language student populations on this characteristic was evident for Canada overall and for New Brunswick, Ontario and Manitoba in the PISA data (Table 4).
The family structure of minority-language students was typical of Canadian families today– the vast majority of minority-language students (over 83.0%) were living in traditional nuclear family settings in 2009, while about 16.0% were in single-parent families. The remaining students were living in mixed family situations. While these figures are comparable to those of the majority-language students there was a slightly higher tendency for minority-language students to come from traditional nuclear families rather than single parent families relative to the rest of the students in their specific provinces. However, this difference was significant only in New Brunswick, which had the highest rate of single parent families in their majority-language student population of all the provinces covered in this report. Nevertheless, the proportion of single parent families in the minority student population in New Brunswick was comparable to that of the other provinces for both majority and minority student populations (Table 4).
It was expected that parental level of educational attainment would be high given the increasing levels of educational attainment with each succeeding generation in Canada. Overall, more than 70.0% of 15 year-old students in Canada had at least one parent with a post-secondary education in 2009. The proportion of students with at least one parent with a post-secondary education tended to be somewhat higher for the minority-language populations in general, but the only province to show a significant difference on this characteristic was British Columbia. In that province, over 86.0% of the PISA students in the minority-language schools reported at least one parent with post-secondary relative to 70.9% of those in the majority-language schools (Table 4).
A smaller share of the 15-year-old minority-language students (12.4%) indicated that they had a parent at home full-time relative to their majority-language peers (14.1%). In Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia there was a significant difference on this characteristic, with a higher percentage of majority-language students having a parent at home full-time in 2009 than for the minority students (Table 4).
Family social, cultural and economic status (SCES), as measured in PISA, is a combination of indicators of parent's highest occupational and educational status and of possessions in the home which reflect relative wealth, cultural possessions (i.e, books and art in the home) and access to educational resources in the home (i.e, reference books, access to the internet). Higher scores on this index indicate a higher level of wealth, a higher number of possessions in the home and greater access to educational resources in the home for the student.
Indexed PISA data
The indices covered in this report follow similar practices in structure. The final score on each index is based on a combination of responses by PISA participants across a number of elements (for a description of the elements that compose each index see Appendix 3). In total, these elements combine to create an overriding concept that the title of the index reflects. The final indexed score is based on a standardized distribution of scores with a mean of zero and a standard deviation of 1 across all OECD countries. The baseline score of "0" was established with responses to the combined elements when the index was first used in the PISA data. Typically higher values on the indexed score is associated with more positive responses to the combined elements. So, for example, higher values on the index of social, cultural and economic status (SCES) reflect responses where parents level of educational attainment is higher, there is more evidence of wealth at home in terms of possessions and parents have higher occupational status than scores which are lower on this index.
Canada was well above the OECD average on this index and showed no overall difference between minority and majority 15 year-old student populations at that level of geography. Provincial differences were evident, some showing a significant gap between the two populations. In New Brunswick, the minority-language student population was significantly lower on this index than the majority-language students, while the opposite was true in Quebec and Manitoba. In Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, measures of family wealth showed no significant differences between minority and majority student populations (Chart 1).
Parents are a primary source of support and encouragement and are instrumental to a student's personal and academic success. In general, over 80.0% of 15 year-old students from both minority and majority student populations demonstrated a close relationship with their parents, eating meals together and chatting together several times a month or more. Talking about school, however, was not the top priority for discussion – the proportion indicating they had discussions with their parents several times a month or more on school performance dropped to about six in ten students, or less, for both the minority and majority populations. In general, parents of students in minority-language school systems were less inclined to discuss school performance than their majority-language counterparts except in Quebec where the opposite was true. The difference on this characteristic between the two populations was significant in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba (Table 5).
Of particular note were the data for minority-language students on language spoken most often in the home. A comparison of language spoken in the home and the language used for instruction at school (also the PISA test language) was possible with the 2009 data. For Canada, only one in ten students in the majority-language school systems was using a language most often at home that was different from the language of instruction at school. This rose to one-third for minority-language students overall2. At all geographies covered in this report, the relative difference in school and home language for majority and minority students was significant. In some instances, the differences were extreme – for example, in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia, the proportion of minority-language students using a different language at home than at school was above 50.0%, or one out of every two minority-language students. By comparison, this figure was consistently below 15.0% for the majority-language students, except in British Columbia where it was up to 19.5% (Table 6).
The SVOLM survey data, reported earlier in this report, confirm that participants in minority-language education do not necessarily have a linguistic environment outside of school that compliments the language used at school. Depending on the degree of miss-match between language of instruction at school and language used at home, on the internet, for reading and with friends, there could be difficulty in getting help with homework, in having access to school-language support materials and in opportunities to practice and reinforce the linguistic skills being developed at school.
Regardless of language of school system, over 95.0% of 15 year-olds indicated a home life that was conducive to learning and that supported typical teenage life in Canada. There were no significant differences between the minority and majority-language student populations in any of the provinces on these life style items. Students at this age in Canada typically have a quiet place to do their schoolwork and the computer and educational software needed to complete their homework. They are living in environments that support literacy and reading (with more than 100 books in the home) and have at least one of the modern-day electronic devices such as DVD's, cell phones and the like at their disposal in their home (Table 7).
The teen years are typically about developing the lifestyle, attitudes, and behaviours that form the foundation for the longer-term objectives of adulthood and successful career paths. Pursuing skills that will lead to successful career paths and labour force participation are another important aspect of the teen years in Canada. Having a strong, positive network of friends and family to help navigate these years can be crucial to appropriate and satisfactory life-path decisions for the student.
Nine in ten minority-language students indicated that they had friends and family who made them feel secure and happy. The same proportion felt that they had someone whom they could trust for advice and whom they could count on in times of trouble. Although significant differences existed between students from minority and majority-language populations on some of these items at the Canada level and in the province of Ontario, the proportion of positive student responses was consistently almost nine out of ten in all provinces across the three items related to a positive and supportive social network (Table 8).
PISA also posed questions that identified potential short-falls in the student's family and friend social support system. The results from these questions also indicated a strong sense of social comfort in the minority student population. Again, about nine in ten minority-language students disagreed with statements such as "If something went wrong no one would help me". Although Ontario stands out as having statistically significant differences between the minority and majority student populations on these more negative social support items, the proportion disagreeing with the statements remained at or about 90.0%. Minority-language school system students in Alberta stood out in their responses to the items "There is no one I feel comfortable with talking about problems" and "There is no one I feel close to". There was a statistically significant six and seven percentage-point gap in favour of the majority-language students on these two items, the widest in all the provinces (Table 9).
The behaviour of students themselves will be a reflection of their own emerging attitudes and satisfaction with life. In six of the seven provinces examined here, minority-language students were less likely than majority-language students to have stayed out all night without permission. In Quebec the opposite was true. The differences between minority and majority students on this characteristic were statistically significant in all provinces except for New Brunswick. The range of proportions on this item shows how tenuous 15 year–old student behaviour can be on this item. The lowest proportion of students indicating that they typically did not stay out all night without permission was for majority-language students in Nova Scotia at 64.2%. By comparison, about 83.0% of minority-language students in British Columbia and majority-language students in Quebec were able to make the same statement – a difference of almost 20 percentage points (Table 10).
Data on such serious behavioural patterns as running away, causing trouble at school and being suspended were also collected in PISA in order to uncover the prevalence of this type of activity in students at this age. Overall, about 90.0% of minority-language students stated that they had never run away. In Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta, the proportion of minority students who had never run away was significantly lower than that of the majority students. The widest gap was in Alberta where it was 83.0% for the minority students and 92.3% for the majority students (Table 10).
Causing trouble at school and being suspended from school were measured in PISA as aspects of negative student behaviour that is being demonstrated in the school environment. At the Canada level, it appears that minority-language students are less well-behaved at school. Overall, 65.8% indicated that they had never caused trouble at school relative to 72.3% for the majority 15 year-old student population. The lower value for the minority population on this item is mostly due to the large and statistically significant differences between minority and majority populations in Quebec (62.1% minority, 76.2% majority had never caused trouble at school) and Alberta (59.9% minority and 70.6% majority). In three provinces, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Manitoba, the minority student populations were in fact, more likely to have been well-behaved at school, although not always to a significantly different degree. In Nova Scotia and Manitoba, this positive behaviour by the minority-language students in school resulted in a significantly higher proportion being able to say they had never been suspended from school relative to their majority-language peers (Table 10).
Teenage life in Canada usually includes a variety of activities, many of which are seen as preparatory to future careers and adulthood. There are many options and teens must balance these additional activity choices against school and family obligations. Participating in paid work will be a reflection of the work climate in a particular province, including economic position and job availability, and of the motivation to work by the students themselves. Overall, around 60.0% of minority-language students worked for pay during the 2008/2009 academic year. This was comparable to majority-language students at the Canada level, but again varied by province. In some provinces, minority-language students were working at a slightly higher rate than their majority-language counterparts and in other provinces, the reverse was true. In Ontario, minority-language students were working at a higher rate than their majority-language student peer group to a significant degree (Table 11).
Volunteer work can often be a substitute for paid work in terms of skills development and has the added benefit of providing community service groups with the support they need to function. About the same proportion of activity was visible at the Canada level for volunteering as was seen for paid work (about 59.0% participation by both minority and majority-language students). However, in two provinces, New Brunswick and Ontario, minority students participated at significantly lower rates than the majority-language students in volunteer settings, while in Quebec minority students participated at a significantly higher rate than their majority peers (Table 11).
In general, life in Canada provides teens with the opportunity to engage in a number of other types of activities (both at school and outside of school) including sports, music lessons, the arts and the like. Not only do these types of activities keep students busy and healthy but they also contribute to personal growth and development. About eight in ten minority-language students engaged in these types of activities in 2009, comparable to the rate for majority-language students. There was considerable variation on this indicator of student behaviour within and across provinces. In Nova Scotia and Manitoba, about nine in ten minority-language students participated in these types of activities (88.8 % and 89.9% respectively), while in New Brunswick it was down to 68.0%. Significant differences existed between minority and majority student populations in Nova Scotia, Quebec, Manitoba, and New Brunswick. In the first three provinces, the minority students participated at higher rates than their majority peers in these types of activities. In New Brunswick, majority students participated at higher rates than minority-language students (Table 11).
The peer group is at its most important during the teen years and can have a substantial influence on student behaviour. PISA looked at both positive and negative aspects of peer behaviour for 15 year-old students in Canada. The vast majority of PISA minority students indicated that most or all of their friends were committed to both their current (90.4%) and future education (85.0%). Where significant differences existed on these two items (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Manitoba) a greater share of minority students had peers who were committed to their current and future education when compared to majority-language students (Table 12).
Most or all of the minority student respondents to PISA 2009 also had friends who thought it was okay to work hard at school (81.9% at the Canada level). Not surprisingly, given the age of respondents, the level of commitment to this item was not quite as strong as seen on the previous two items. In New Brunswick and British Columbia the proportion of students who had most or all of their friends willing to work hard in school dropped to the mid to low 70's for the minority-language student populations (Table 12).
About 80.0% of minority-language students indicated that most or all of their friends were working for pay, a figure that was comparable to the rest of the students in their individual provinces. In New Brunswick, the difference between minority and majority-language students on this peer behaviour was significantly different. In that province, although a significantly larger proportion of majority-language respondents had peers who were working (87.6%) the rate for the minority students (82.6%) was still not below the overall average of about eight in ten. (Table 12).
On the more negative aspects of peer behaviour, minority-language students had consistently more well-behaved peers than their majority-language counterparts. Although significant differences existed between minority and majority student populations across the negative peer behaviour characteristics - in terms of friends skipping classes, dropping out of high school, causing trouble at school and smoking - a consistently high proportion (85.0% - 95.0%) of minority-language respondents indicated that only some (or none) of their friends engaged in these types of negative behaviours (Table 13).
Schooling takes up the greatest share of 15-year-old life in Canada. Performance, commitment and dedication to schooling are seen as hallmarks to future life-path choices and success in adulthood. PISA collects considerable information on student attitudes towards schooling, performance in a number of academics and interest in, and expectations for, current and future academic options.
On the index of attitudes towards schooling, there were no overriding differences between the minority and majority-language populations at the Canada level, with both populations scoring above the OECD average on this index in 2009. At the provincial level, however, substantial differences existed in the data. In Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, minority students were much more positive about their schooling than their majority-language peers. In the first three provinces listed, the difference was significant. In Quebec and Manitoba, minority students scored below their majority-language peers on this index and were below the OECD average for this item (Chart 2).
A major contribution to Canada's positive performance on the index of student-teacher relations, which was well above the OECD average, was due to the very positive perceptions held by minority-language students towards their relationships with their teachers. In all provinces examined here, except Quebec, minority-language students were more positive on this index than their majority-language peers. In Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia the differences were significant. In Quebec, minority students scored below their majority peers on this index to a significant extant, although the score for the minority-language students in this province remained well above the OECD average (Chart 3).
The generally more positive attitudes towards schooling and student-teacher relations by minority-language students were reflected in their school attendance behaviours. Minority-language students answered, "skipped classes without permission- never or rarely", to a significantly greater extent than their peers at the Canada, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia geographies (Table 14).
Given the results above, it is curious that when asked about social comfort at school, minority-language students were not as positive as their majority-language peers in their responses. When asked if they felt "like they belong" when at school, minority-language students in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia answered "yes" less frequently than their majority-language counterparts to a significant extent. Only in Quebec did the minority-language students feel "like they belonged" to a significantly greater extent than the other students in their province (Table 15).
Minority-language students in Ontario and British Columbia were also significantly less inclined to express that the other students at their schools "seemed to like them". On a more positive note, minority-language students in Quebec felt that people at school "were interested in what they had to say" to a significantly higher level than their majority-language counterparts (Table 15).
The indication of a somewhat lower level of social comfort at school did not interfere with minority student's self-reported performance at school, however. A higher proportion of minority-language students reported having overall grades of 70.0% or more than majority-language students. In the language arts, math and science, the share of minority students reporting grades of 70.0% or more was significantly higher than the share for majority students (Table 16).
In all provinces except New Brunswick and British Columbia, a higher proportion of minority-language students were reporting overall grades 70.0% or more. Self-reported performance by minority-language students in math was equal to or better than their majority-language peers in all provinces except New Brunswick. In Ontario and Manitoba, the proportion of minority students with grades 70.0% or more in math was significantly higher than the proportion for majority language students. In terms of science, Alberta and New Brunswick were the only provinces where a lower proportion of minority-language students reported grades of 70.0% or more, with the difference being significant between the two populations only in New Brunswick (Table 16).
Time spent on homework by minority-language students was not as consistent as their more positive self-reported grades performance. A significantly greater proportion of minority students in Ontario and Alberta indicated that they spent less than 3 hours of study per week in these subject areas (language arts, math and science) relative to the rest of the 15-year-old students in their provinces. Majority students in those provinces were spending more than 3 hours per week studying in those subject areas. On the other hand, in Nova Scotia and Quebec, a significantly larger share of minority students stated that they were spending more than 3 hours of study per week in each of the three subject areas when compared to the rest of the students in their provinces (Table 17).
An important aspect of student behaviour, one that is closely tied to literacy and academic performance, is reading. PISA has available an index on "enjoyment of reading" which sheds some interesting information on minority-language student populations in Canada. In all provinces except Ontario and New Brunswick, minority-language students performed higher on this index, indicating a stronger love of reading, than the rest of the students in their provinces. In British Columbia and Quebec the minority-language students did significantly better on this index than the majority students. On the other hand, in Ontario and New Brunswick, not only were the minority-language students scores on this index significantly lower than other students in those two provinces, but the minority-language students were also well below the OECD average for this indicator (Chart 4).
According to minority-language student responses to PISA, their love of reading is happening without as much encouragement from their teachers as with majority-language students. In all provinces except Quebec, minority students indicated less support for reading from their teachers than their majority counterparts. This difference was significant in all provinces except British Columbia. In Quebec, minority students were more positive than their majority peers on this item to a significant degree (Chart 5).
The main focus of PISA is to assess student performance on several skills that are fundamental to academic and life-path success. In addition to information on student behaviour, attitudes, family and life in general, PISA has direct measures on the reading, math and science skills of 15-year-old students. Oversampling in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia at the time PISA was administered in Canada permitted scores to be developed for the minority-language students in reading, math and science in those provinces.
In 2009, the focus of the assessment test was reading literacy and included items that led to the elaboration of scores on overall reading skills and on a number of sub-scales that reflect cognitive functioning and text types that are related to reading (see the accompanying Text Boxes: "Defining Reading Literacy" and "Understanding PISA scores").
Defining Reading Literacy
In the PISA context, the term "reading" is used for "reading literacy" which is meant to focus on the active, purposeful and functional application of reading in a range of situations and for various purposes. Reading literacy includes a broad set of cognitive competencies, from basic decoding, to knowledge of words, grammar, and linguistic and textual structures and features, to knowledge about the world. It also includes metacognitive competencies: the awareness of and ability to use a variety of appropriate strategies when processing texts.
Historically, the term "literacy" referred to a tool used to acquire and communicate information. This is close to the notion that the term reading literacy is intended to express in PISA: the active, purposeful and functional application of reading in a range of situations and for various purposes.
PISA 2009 defines reading literacy as
The second major characteristic, aspects, defines the cognitive approach that determines how readers engage with a text. Proficient readers have a repertoire of approaches and purposes for reading. They approach texts in order to access and retrieve information. They are able to interpret texts at the level of words, sentences and larger sections, and integrate information within texts and across multiple texts. Proficient readers reflect on texts in order to better understand and extend their own experiences, and in order to evaluate the relevance, utility and quality of the texts themselves. While all of these approaches are integral to proficient reading, the emphasis they are given in reading curricula and pedagogy across schools, systems and countries varies. In PISA 2009 the aspects access and retrieve, integrate and interpret and reflect and evaluate are used as the basis for reporting on reading, to investigate how proficiency in each of them plays out across the participating countries and subgroups of interest.
Text format is also used as an organiser for reporting [data captured by PISA], building subscales for the categories continuous and non-continuous, which describe two ways in which texts are commonly structured, either in sentences and paragraphs (continuous), or in other formats such as lists, diagrams, graphs and tables (non-continuous).
PISA 2009 Results: What Students Know and Can Do – Volume I © OECD 2010. pp 39-41.
Understanding PISA scores
The PISA scores for reading, mathematics and science are expressed on a scale with a mean of 500 points for the OECD countries and a standard deviation of 100. This average was established in the year in which the domain became the main focus of the assessment – 2000 for reading, 2003 for mathematics and 2006 for science. Approximately two-thirds of the students scored between 400 and 600 (i.e. within one standard deviation of the average) for the OECD countries. Due to change in performance over time, the OECD average scores for mathematics and science in PISA 2009 differ slightly from 500.
One way to summarize student performance and to compare the relative standing of countries is by examining their average test scores. However, simply ranking countries based on their average scores can be misleading because there is a margin of error associated with each score. This margin of error must be taken into account in order to identify whether significant differences in average scores exist when comparing countries [or regions within countries]. When interpreting average performances, only those differences…. that are statistically significant should be taken into account.
Measuring Up: Canadian Results of the OECDPISA Study. The Performance of Canada's Youth in Reading, Mathematics and Science. 2009 First Results for Canadians aged 15. Statistics Canada. 2010.
At first glance, it appears that Canada's minority-language students outperform the OECD in all reading skills examined through PISA except on the accessing and retrieving sub-scale. However, this is in large part due to the performance of the minority-language students in Quebec. In this province, minority students not only outperformed their counterparts in the other provinces but were also significantly above the OECD average on each of the scales. In all other provinces performance by the minority-language students was at or below the OECD average, frequently to a significant extent. By comparison, scores for students from the majority-language populations were equal to or higher than the OECD average, frequently to a significant extent (Table 18.1 and Table 18.2).
Only Quebec and Manitoba showed no significant within province differences between minority and majority populations in PISA reading scores. This was consistent across both the combined reading scores and for each of the sub-scale assessments. Some of these differences between minority and majority students on the combined reading and sub-scale items can be considered extreme and cause for concern. Given that an increase of 75 points on the PISA reading scale represents an improvement of about one proficiency level in reading literacy, values above 37 mean that minority students are trailing their provincial peers by about a half a reading proficiency level. In Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, minority students were below their majority-language peers by half a proficiency level or more for each of the PISA reading items. (Table 18.2).
Defining mathematics and science
Mathematics and science are used to signify mathematical and scientific literacy, which PISA defines as follows:
Mathematical literacy: The capacity to identify, to understand, and to engage in mathematics and make well-founded judgments about the role that mathematics plays, as needed for individuals' current and future private life, occupational life, social life with peers and relatives and as a constructive, concerned and reflective citizen.
Scientific literacy: The capacity to use scientific knowledge, to identify questions and to draw evidence based conclusions in order to understand and help make decisions about the natural world and the changes made to it through human activity.
Since mathematics and science were minor domains in the 2009 PISA assessment, a smaller amount of assessment time was given to these two domains compared to the major domain of reading. Consequently, PISA 2009 allows only an update on overall performance and not on the sub-domains that were possible when mathematics was the major domain in 2003 and science was the major domain in 2006.
Measuring Up: Canadian Results of the OECDPISA Study. The Performance of Canada's Youth in Reading, Mathematics and Science. 2009 First Results for Canadians aged 15. Statistics Canada. 2010.
Canadian 15-year-olds in minority-language school systems performed well on the mathematics component of PISA in 2009. Quebec minority-language students stand out again from other provinces – scoring 37 points, or about a half a proficiency level, above the OECD average. Nova Scotia, Ontario and Manitoba also scored above the OECD average but to no significant degree. The other provinces were below the OECD average, but only slightly (Table 19.1 and Table 19.2).
Minority-language students did not do as well as their majority-language peers however. Only Nova Scotia and Manitoba had non-significant differences between the two populations on the mathematics assessment. In Alberta and British Columbia, minority-language students performed at almost half a PISA mathematical proficiency level below the rest of the students in their respective provinces (Table 19.2).
Science scores for the minority-language student population were equivalent to the OECD average, mostly due to the strong performance by Quebec minority-language students who scored 20 points above the OECD average. Differences between minority and majority-language students were significant in favour of the majority students in all provinces except Quebec and Manitoba. In Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, these significant differences consistently represented at least a half a PISA proficiency level higher or more for the majority-language school system students (Table 19.2).
At age 15 in Canada, students are typically already participating, or making plans to participate, in the labour market and develop career paths. Experiences on these fronts and the support and guidance students receive throughout these steps to adulthood can make a substantial difference to appropriate decision-making and skill development in these areas.
When looking ahead to a career, minority-language students strongly believe that a good job will depend on their success in school (87.4% agreed with this statement). At the same time, 85.6% of these students believed their schooling would have to include some form of post-secondary education. These rates were comparable to those for the majority language students, with 89.7% believing that a good job depended on school success and 85.8% believing a college or university education would be necessary to acquire a good job (Table 20).
The proportion of students who agreed with statements that indicated final decisions on a career path had been made ("I know my own interests and abilities well enough to decide on a future career now") was much lower than on the previous two items for both minority and majority-language students. This suggests that there is an on-going engagement with career planning at age 15 in Canada or that the process has not yet begun. Most notably, in British Columbia, minority-language students were able to agree with statements that indicated a solid understanding of their career interests less than 70.0% of the time. In Manitoba, minority students felt significantly less pressed to make final decisions on their careers at the time PISA was administered than their provincial peers, with 68.7% agreeing that decisions had to be made now relative to 77.9% of their majority-language peers (Table 20).
Students have an assortment of options when seeking help with job and career planning. Using a variety of sources increases the student's available knowledge base when making these serious choices. Most students used a combination of strategies (73.8% minority-language students, 80.6% majority-language students) for gathering information on jobs and careers such as talking to a counsellor or teacher or someone working in a job they might like, reading information on different types of careers, attending presentations on jobs and careers and the like. There was a significant difference between minority and majority students at the Canada level and in Quebec and Manitoba in the proportion of students using a number of strategies. Overall, minority-language students were more inclined to have used only one strategy or no strategies by the time PISA was administered in 2009, while majority students tended to use a combination of strategies (Table 21).
Students have several places to go to for help with job and career planning, most obvious being school and home. For resume writing and interview preparation about 1/3 of the minority students turned to their school for help and about 1/4 turned to people at home for help. Another 1/4 used both these resources. In Quebec, minority-language students turned to their school for help to a significantly greater extent and the people at home to a significantly lower extent than their majority-language peers. In Manitoba, the opposite was true, with minority students turning to resources at home to a greater extent and school to a lesser extent than their majority-language peers (Table 22).
PISA identified the level of reliance students placed on these resources for career planning. Again, about 1/3 of the minority students used a number of resources (school, home and elsewhere) to get information about current and future jobs. An additional 25.8% relied only on their schools for this information, while another 22.6% turned to people at home only. In Ontario, minority students were relying on 'school only' to a significantly lesser degree and 'home only' to a significantly higher degree than the rest of the students in that province (Table 22).
Completion of a post-secondary education (PSE) in the trades, college or university has become the norm in Canada and this is reflected in both parent and student beliefs about completing this type of education. Well over 90.0% of parents of both minority and majority students believed that a post-secondary education was very or fairly important to their children's future according to the 2009 PISA data. Furthermore, about 90.0% or more of the students themselves, in both populations, expected to complete a trade, college or university education. The only significant difference was for minority-language students in New Brunswick whose expectations for PSE completion were about 5 percentage points lower than the rest of the students in that province (87.9% for minority students vs. 92.5% for majority students) (Table 23).
Some significant differences existed in the types of post-secondary education students expected to pursue. In New Brunswick, minority-language students who intended to complete PSE were less likely to pursue university relative to their majority-language peers to a significant extent, preferring the trades/college options. In Quebec, trades/college completion drew more interest from the majority-language students while university drew more interest from the minority-language students, both to a significant degree (Table 23).
Post-secondary education is an enormous time and financial commitment and it is important that students believe they can accomplish and complete these objectives. Minority-language students were very positive about their future performance in PSE. Between eight and nine out of every ten students in the minority-language 15-year-old student group believed they would enjoy going to college or university. For questions related to future success at PSE, the proportion of minority-language students who believed they could be successful was equal to or higher than that of the majority-language students. Where significant differences were evident, (New Brunswick, Ontario and Manitoba) the minority students were consistently more convinced of their future PSE success than their majority peers (Table 24).
- /pub/81-004-x/2005004/8984-eng.htm, accessed January 2011 and /pub/81-004-x/2007006/article/10527-eng.htm, accessed January 2011.
- In most instances, when the language of instruction at school was different from the language used most often at home, the language used at home was the other official language for minority-language students and was an allophone language (neither English nor French) for majority-language students.