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    A Profile of Minority-Language Students and Schools in Canada: Results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), 2009

    A Profile of Minority-Language Students and Schools in Canada: Results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), 2009

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    by Lisa Shipley

    1. Introduction

    In 2009, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) went in to the field in Canada for the fourth time. PISA is a collaborative effort among member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and is designed to provide policy-oriented indicators of the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students. In Canada, PISA is conducted through a partnership consisting of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada and Statistics Canada.

    PISA data shed light on a range of factors that contribute to successful students, schools and education systems. PISA also permits exploration of the ways that achievement varies across different populations and the factors that influence achievement within and among different sub-groups. This report summarises the results from PISA 2009 for students in the minority-language school systems in Canada within the seven provinces that reported data for both their English and French language school systems (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia).

    The purpose of the following analyses was to develop a profile of minority-language students in Canada (French outside of Quebec, English in Quebec) and the schools they attend. The minority-language 15-year-old population covered by this report includes students from schools that respond to section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which:

    "recognizes the right of Canadian citizens belonging to the English or French-language minority in a province or territory to have their children educated in that language at the elementary-secondary level, where numbers warrant, in minority-language educational facilities provided out of public funds."1

    Results reported here thus reflect the data for students who attended schools which responded to and received funding as a consequence of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and The Official Languages Act, and where instruction was provided in French outside of Quebec and in English within Quebec.

    What is PISA?

    The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) began in 2000 and focuses on the capabilities of 15-year-olds as they near the end of compulsory education. The skills assessment component of PISA measures 15-year-old student proficiency in reading, mathematics and science, skills that are generally recognized as key outcomes of the educational process. The assessment focuses on young people's ability to use their knowledge and skills to meet real life challenges. PISA reports on these skills every three years and provides a more detailed look at one of those domains in the years when it is the major focus.

    As was the case in 2000, reading was the major domain of PISA in 2009 when the focus was on both overall (or combined) reading literacy and the three reading sub-domains (reading retrieving, reading interpreting and reading reflecting). As minor domains in PISA 2009, only overall measures of mathematics and science are available.

    The 2009 PISA assessment was administered in schools in Canada, during regular school hours in April and May 2009. Approximately 23,000 15-year-olds from about 1,000 schools across the ten provinces participated. This large Canadian sample was required in order to produce reliable estimates representative of each province and for both French and English language school systems in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia. PISA was administered in English and in French according to the language of the respective school system.

    The skills assessment component of PISA was a two-hour paper-and-pencil test. Students also completed a 20-minute student background questionnaire providing information about themselves and their home and a 10-minute questionnaire on information technology and communications, while school principals completed a 20-minute questionnaire about their schools. As part of PISA 2009, Canada chose to add a 20-minute student questionnaire as a national component to collect more information on the school experiences of 15-year-olds, their work activities and their relationships with others.


    1. Protocol for agreements, Department of Canadian Heritage- accessed December 24, 2010.
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