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The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a worldwide study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It is meant to evaluate educational systems in member and non-member nations. It measures 15-year-old school pupils' scholastic performance on mathematics, science, and reading. Its aim is to provide comparable data with a view to enabling countries to improve their education policies and outcomes.


During the passionate public discussion over Bill #64, the provincial government used headlines drawn from the PISA results of 2018. Those headlines were misleading. Manitoba students outscore entire countries (like France). Where Manitoba falls short is an issue of poverty. There was a time when SJASD was reducing staff by not replacing them due to natural attrition. This was at the same time the student population was increasing. It was due to the lack of  provincial financial support.

Not all students have the same needs or even the same means. EAL learners from war-torn countries have more needs. So do Indigenous students who have moved into a school that many times may have a population larger than home, in an environment that feels foreign and even hostile.

School divisions have PISA results that are broken down by school. They just don't release them. I understand why. The American No Child Left Behind Act punished schools who were not performing well. It ignored the needs of the student populations and justified the privatization of the public system under the banner of choice.

I believe it would be useful to release school by school PISA results, if it were done respectfully and with good intentions. PISA results should not be used to castigate hard working professionals or blames students, parents and entire communities. They should allow the public to know which schools are in need of more supports so budgets can be allocated appropriately. The message matters. Despite our high poverty rate, Manitoba is still in the world's top 20. Canada is the only industrial country that compares provinces to countries. We're the only country without a national education strategy or department.


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