Big gender gap in students attitudes and engagement in global and multicultural issues

New interesting element to the OECD’s PISA assessment. Detailed review on my to do list to see if interesting immigrant/non-immigrant comparisons:

Schools and education systems are failing to give boys and girls across the world the same opportunities to learn and apply their knowledge of global and multicultural issues, according to a new report on the first OECD PISA assessment of the knowledge, skills and attitudes of students to engage with other people and cultures.

Are Students Ready to Thrive in an Interconnected World? focused on students’ knowledge of issues of local and global significance, including public health, economic and environmental issues, as well as their intercultural knowledge, skills and attitudes. Students from 27 countries and economies took the test. Students, teachers, parents and school principals from around 66 countries and economies completed a questionnaire*.

The results reveal a gender gap in access to opportunities to learn global competence as well as in students’ global and intercultural skills and attitudes. On average across OECD countries, boys were more likely than girls to report taking part in activities where they are expected to express and discuss their views, while girls were more likely than boys to report taking part in activities related to intercultural understanding and communication.

Boys, for example, were more likely to learn about the interconnectedness of countries’ economies, look for news on the Internet or watch the news together during class. They were also more likely to be asked by teachers to give their opinion about international news, take part in classroom discussions about world events and analyse global issues with their classmates.

In contrast, girls were more likely than boys to report that they learn how to solve conflicts with their peers in the classroom, learn about different cultures and learn how people from different cultures can have different perspectives on some issues. These gender differences could reflect personal interests and self-efficacy but could also reflect how girls and boys are socialised at home and at school, according to the report.

“Education is key to helping young people navigate today’s increasingly complex and interconnected world,” said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills. “The schools and education systems that are most successful in fostering global knowledge, skills and attitudes among young people are those that offer a curriculum that values openness to the world, provide a positive and inclusive learning environment and offer opportunities to relate to people from other cultures.”

The findings reveal the key role teachers play in promoting and integrating intercultural understanding into their classroom practices and lessons. Most teachers reported that they are confident in their ability to teach in multicultural settings. But the lack of adequate professional development opportunities in this field is a major challenge. Few teachers reported having received training on teaching in multicultural or multilingual settings.

More than 90% of students attended schools where principals reported positive multicultural beliefs among their teachers. Yet students who perceive discrimination by their teachers towards immigrants and people from other cultural backgrounds, for example, exhibited similar negative attitudes. This highlights the key role of teachers and school principals in countering or perpetuating discrimination by acting as role models.

The report found a strong link between students learning activities at school and having more positive intercultural attitudes. Also, speaking two or more languages was positively associated with awareness of global issues, interest in learning about other cultures, respect for people from other cultures and positive attitudes towards immigrants.

On average across OECD countries, 50% of students reported learning two or more languages at school, 38% reported learning one foreign language and only 12% reported not learning any foreign language at school. The largest share of students (more than 20%) who reported not learning any foreign language at school were observed in Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Scotland. By contrast, in 42 countries, more than 90% of students reported that they learn at least one foreign language at school.

Source: Big gender gap in students attitudes and engagement in global and multicultural issues

Where immigrants go to school is more important than where they came from | The Economist

More on the OECD PISA results focussing on immigrant children:

IF YOU think starting a new school is scary stuff—try doing it in a new country. Migrants can face a twin disadvantage. They are often concentrated in struggling schools. And, at least at first, they may suffer from having to toggle between languages at home and in class. Two-thirds of pupils born outside their host country use another tongue at home. Nearly one in two second-generation immigrants does so.

It is little wonder that many migrants struggle on the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests. The children of foreign-born parents are on average about a year behind their peers, even after accounting for parental income.

This finding hides a lot of variation (see chart). In Australia and Canada pupils whose parents were born abroad do better on science tests than similar teenagers with native-born parents.

Meanwhile immigrants in European countries are often far behind. In Germany first-generation and second-generation migrants are respectively about 2.5 and 1.5 years behind teenagers with German-born parents, even after accounting for their different economic backgrounds. There are similar results in Finland, a country often lauded for its record of equality in education.

For sure, migrants’ origins matter a lot. Second-generation East Asian pupils in Australia are roughly 2.5 years ahead of those with native-born parents. They do even better than pupils in Singapore, the highest-performing country in PISA, even as results in Australia as a whole have fallen.

Yet the country in which the immigrant attends school is more important than the one he comes from, says the OECD’s Andreas Schleicher. Turkish-born pupils in Germany are nearly two years behind in science tests compared with those in the Netherlands, after adjusting for different economic backgrounds.

Policy makes a difference. Attending nursery or extra language tuition helps migrants catch up. Limiting selection by academic ability gives them more time to make up ground. Not making them repeat a year has the same effect.

Admissions policies matter, too. Avoiding high concentrations of migrants in particular schools would help their academic achievement. It would probably also help poorer native children.

The task of educating migrants better is urgent, especially in Europe. The share of children of foreign-born parents in the OECD that took PISA increased from 9.4% in 2006 to 12.5% in 2015. It could rise further in light of the numbers of migrants settling in Europe in 2015 and 2016.

A survey last year by the OECD found that about 80% of second-generation immigrants feel at home at school. But outliers should cause concern. In France, for example, just 40% of second-generation immigrants say they feel as if they belong in school. That is a figure to make everyone in the country sit up straight.

Source: Where immigrants go to school is more important than where they came from | The Economist

Canadian students are excelling: Don’t get complacent (OECD PISA)

Good overall assessment of the latest OECD PISA results and Canadian students and schools by Bonnie Schmidt and Andrew Parkin:

Canadians can be proud of our showing in the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment report, released Tuesday. We are one of only a handful of countries that places in the top tier in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in each of the three subjects tested: science, reading and math.

Canadian students not only exceeded the international average in science performance – they were among the best in the world in this subject. This is a positive result, given the diversity of our education systems and of our student population. Canada was also near the very top in reading, and remained in the top 10 in math. The OECD even singled Canada out for our ability to combine high achievement with a commitment to equity in education.

There is no gender gap in science performance in Canada, nor is there a gap between immigrant students and those born in Canada. Parents should welcome these findings.

Not only do Canadian students perform well in science, but they are also more likely than the OECD average to expect to have STEM careers (in science, technology, engineering and math) – 34 per cent of Canadian students have this expectation, compared with an international average of 25 per cent. This is good news for Canada and a testament to the many organizations across the country that help schools connect the dots between classroom science learning and the world of work.

But significant gender differences remain in terms of the specific types of STEM careers that boys and girls expect to have, with girls much more likely to expect careers in health sciences (29 per cent versus 10 per cent) and boys much more likely to expect careers in engineering (18 per cent versus 7 per cent) and information and communications technology (3.7 per cent in the ICT field versus 0.3 per cent).

While the PISA results do warrant celebration, we can’t become complacent. Challenges continue, not the least of which is figuring out how to continue evolving learning opportunities for Canadian youth so they can participate as citizens and in the labour market in a rapidly changing world.

And even though Canada stands out for its record in equity, some students still struggle to get the necessary attention. For example, PISA makes no reference to indigenous students. In addition, girls continue to significantly outperform boys in reading (though the gap narrows with digital reading) and, in some (but not all) provinces, boys outperform girls in math. Minority language classrooms (i.e. French learners outside Quebec and English learners in Quebec) also continue to lag behind.

Source: Canadian students are excelling: Don’t get complacent – The Globe and Mail

How one family is learning to adapt on the first day of school in Canada

Good account of integration in action (Canadian schools score extremely well in the OECD’s comparative PISA education scores for immigrant integration):

At 8 a.m. on a frigid Monday morning, six children of the Al Rassoul family are lined up inside the door of their new Scarborough house, all ready for the first day of school in their adopted country.

The boys shuffle their new winter boots as their mother and two aunts tug on their toques and scarves. Their five-year-old sister, Mariah, the class clown of the group, bounces around in her Minnie Mouse jeans and purple backpack, trading high fives with anyone who will play.

How this morning will go, no one can say for sure. The family arrived in Toronto barely more than two weeks ago. Forced to give up their old life in Homs, Syria, by fighting that raged within a stone’s throw of their house, they spent four years in Lebanon before being offered a chance to come to Canada as refugees. None of the kids got any formal schooling in their exile. None speaks more than a few words of English.

How on earth are they to cope with the new ways of the Canadian school system? How on earth will the schools cope with them?

The answer in both cases: pretty well, considering. Apart from one little drama – an epic tantrum by little Mariah, who makes an impression by hurling a sneaker at the school principal – the kids have a good first day.

Their father, Mahmoud Al Rassoul, and his wife, Isaaf Al Omar, have eight kids in all. One of them, Malek, 15, has to wait for an assessment of his language and academic skills before he gets assigned to a high school. Another, three-year-old Maaly, is too young for school.

That leaves six. Two of the boys go off to middle school, driven there by the family’s well-organized Canadian sponsor group. The four younger kids get a lift to Iroquois Junior Public, a strikingly diverse elementary school of around 270 students near Finch Avenue and McCowan Road.

Iroquois welcomes them with a minimum of fuss, just as it has welcomed countless other new kids from far-flung places. After a few minutes milling around the office, where Mariah admires the aquarium and learns the word “fish,” the kids are dispatched to their various classrooms. That’s how it works at this level. No preliminaries. Straight into the deep end, where the water at least is warm.

In Christina Fan’s kindergarten class, Mariah takes her place on the carpet, learning to sit with her legs crossed like the others. “Good morning, Mariah,” her classmates sing out together, clapping their hands in welcome. When Ms. Fan asks who wants to be Mariah’s friend, hands shoot up.

The numbers for Toronto:

Iroquois is well-used to absorbing newcomers. According to its website, all but 30 or so of its students listed a primary language other than English. Most are from South Asian or East Asian backgrounds. Chinese and Tamil are two of the most common home languages.

Of the quarter of a million kids in the Toronto District School Board, 22 per cent were born outside of Canada. Last year alone, the TDSB took in 5,676 new-immigrant childrenkids. Guidance counsellors, English-as-a-second-language teachers, social workers and special-education instructors are ready to step in if a kid falters.

Source: How one family is learning to adapt on the first day of school in Canada – The Globe and Mail

Immigrant students fare best heading quickly into classroom, OECD study shows

No surprise. Canada has always done well, both absolutely and in relation to other OECD countries, in immigrant education outcomes:

A sweeping new study of immigrant students around the world shows they do best in countries that bring them into regular classrooms as quickly as possible, where teachers feel comfortable working with children of different backgrounds and where extra help is offered to immigrant families — all hallmarks of GTA schools.

The 124-page report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), to be released Thursday, looks at how immigrant students in some 30 countries, including Canada, performed on a standardized test in the “3 Rs” in 2012, and concludes their success depends largely on how the host country helps them integrate in school.

“Immigrant students perform better and report feeling more accepted in some countries than others, which suggests education policy has an impact on integration,” said the report, “Immigrant Students at School: Easing the Journey towards Integration.”

It suggests the countries that best help immigrant students succeed move them into regular classrooms while giving them a crash course in their new language, rather than segregate them until they have mastered the language, as happens in some countries.

In Ontario, schools must place newcomers in a regular classroom for at least part of each day, noted Paula Markus, the Toronto District School Board’s co-ordinator of English as a Second Language (ESL).

“We don’t want to segregate children, even from the first days, because while we’re giving them English language support we know it’s important for them to get to know English-speaking peers and make friends and that helps their adjustment,” she said.

Nor should teachers in the diverse GTA be intimidated by the wave of refugees Canada is expecting, she said, “because we have the most amazing, diverse classrooms in the world here. “As Justin Trudeau said, this is 2015.”

Source: Immigrant students fare best heading quickly into classroom, study shows | Toronto Star

Environics Institute: Do students with immigrant backgrounds in Canada do as well in educational achievement as non-immigrants students?

PISA Math ScoresGood study from the Environics Institute on education outcomes. Excerpt from Chapter 8, immigrant backgrounds:

Yes; Canada is one of only a very few countries that combines overall high achievement, a larger than average immigrant population, and no significant achievement gap between immigrants and non-immigrants.

One of the main reasons that explains Canada’s good overall performance in education is that it is successful in ensuring the educational achievement of children with immigrant backgrounds. Given the comparatively large proportion of students in Canadian schools, colleges and universities that are first and second generation immigrants, the country simply could not post high overall achievements scores if there was a significant gap between these students and non-immigrants.

The PIRLS study of Grade Four students does not report data regarding immigrant students, but does examine results for those who did not speak the language of the test prior to starting school (in Canada, this would be those whose spoke a language other than English or French). While internationally the average gap between students who did and did not speak the language of the test prior to starting school was 37 points, Hong Kong, Australia and Canada all had gaps of 5 points or less (and in each case, the gap was not statistically significant). This demonstrates the ability of schools in high immigration countries such as Australia and Canada to quickly integrate students from immigrant families in the early years of schooling.

PISA - Literacy ScoresThere is extensive data from PISA regarding students with immigrant backgrounds. The proportion of students with immigrant backgrounds in Canada is much higher than average, and indeed higher than in almost all other OECD countries.

  • 29 percent of Canadian 15-year old students have an immigrant background (meaning they are either first or second generation immigrants), compared to the OECD average of 11 percent. Among OECD countries, only Luxembourg (46 percent) has a higher proportion. New Zealand (26 percent), Switzerland (24 percent), Australia (23 percent), and the US (22 percent) are the other OECD countries where the proportion of students with immigrant backgrounds is greater that one in five.
  • 13 percent of Canadians students are first-generation immigrants, compared with the OECD average of 5 percent. Among OECD countries, only Luxembourg and New Zealand (17 percent each) have a higher proportion.
  • Among OECD countries, Canada (14 percent) has the second highest proportion of students who have an immigrant background (first or second generation) and who speak a language at home that is different from the language of the PISA assessment, after Luxembourg (32 percent). The average for the OECD is 6 percent.There is no significant gap between the academic achievement of immigrant (first and second generation) and non-immigrant students in Canada, as measured by PISA 2012 (mean math scores).
  • The two point gap in favour of non-immigrant students in Canada is not statistically significant, and compares with an average gap for all OECD countries of 34 points. New Zealand and Ireland resemble Canada in having no gap between immigrant and non-immigrant students, while in Australia there is a significant gap in favour of immigrant students.
  • There is also no noticeable gap between students in Canada who are first-generation immigrants and non-immigrant students (in fact, the former group has a slight 6 point edge).
  • Similarly, students in Canada who have both an immigrant background (first or second generation) and who speak a language at home that is different from the language of the PISA assessment perform about as well as non-immigrants with the same language as the assessment (again, the former group has a slight 7 point edge).In fact, Canada is one of only a few OECD countries that combine a number of important attributes: high overall performance, a high proportion of students from immigrant families, and a low or non-existent performance gap between immigrants and non-immigrants. This is illustrated in Table 6.37

Canada’s success in this area is also evident by the fact that even those first generation immigrant students who arrived in Canada after age 12 perform relatively well: in fact, the PISA math scores for this group are no different than those of non-immigrant students. As Chart 6 illustrates, there is no significant drop-off in scores for immigrants students based on how long they have been in the country, in marked contrast to the international average.

Immigrants in Canada have also been successful in postsecondary education.

  • Of course, data on educational attainment for first- generation immigrants generally reflects the educational backgrounds that immigrants had before arriving in Canada rather than their education experience in this country (immigrants to Canada on the whole are more likely to have a university degree than domestically born Canadians).
  • The experience of second generation immigrants is more revealing. 84 percent of second generation immigrants in Canada enroll in a postsecondary education course by the age of 21, including 54 percent who pursue a university degree, compared with 72 percent for non-immigrants (38 percent for university).
  • Not all immigrant groups are equally successful, however. While over 80 percent of second generation immigrants whose parents came from Africa or China pursue university studies by the age of 21, only 36 percent of those from central and southern America and the Caribbean do.

Regional differences in the educational outcomes of young immigrants

Immigrant Math Scores by RegionInteresting study comparing the educational outcomes of immigrant children and third-generation or more Canadians. The findings regarding Quebec are particularly worrisome, given implications for longer-term integration:


This article examines regional differences in the math and reading skills of immigrant children aged 15 based on data from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). It also examines regional differences in high-school and university completion rates among young immigrants who came to Canada before the age of 15 using National Household Survey (NHS) data. Throughout the article, comparisons are made with the children of the Canadian-born (third- or higher-generation Canadians).

  • In Canada, the average PISA math score of immigrant students aged 15 was similar to the score of third- or higher-generation students. The average PISA reading score of immigrant children was slightly lower than the score of third- or higher-generation children.
  • In almost all regions, immigrant students had lower PISA reading scores than third- or higher-generation students. With respect to PISA math scores, immigrant students performed better than third- or higher-generation students in the Atlantic provinces and British Colombia, but performed less well in Quebec and in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
  • Young immigrants aged 20 to 24 were more likely to have a high school diploma than their third- or higher-generation counterparts (93% versus 87%). Young immigrants aged 25 to 29 were also more likely to have a university degree (40%, compared with 26% of third- or higher-generation individuals in this age group).
  • Manitoba and Saskatchewan (29%) and Quebec (32%) had the lowest proportions of immigrants aged 25 to 29 with a university degree. In contrast, British Columbia (44%) and Ontario (41%) had the highest proportions.
  • Regional differences in the source countries of immigrants explained, in part, why some regions had higher university completion rates than others.

Immigrant Reading Scores by RegionSource: Regional differences in the educational outcomes of young immigrants