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Socioeconomic gradient literacy and numeracy skills of 15-year-olds across Canadian provinces and years using the PISA surveys (2000-2012)

TitleSocioeconomic gradient literacy and numeracy skills of 15-year-olds across Canadian provinces and years using the PISA surveys (2000-2012)
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsLefebvre, P.
JournalWorking Papers Series
Keywordscanadian province, education attainment gradient, literacy and numeracy skills, pisa, proficiency scales, provincial education policy, socioeconomic inequalities

In 2000, the OECD began the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) ,a triennial survey of the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds. For each survey, Canadian students placed well above the OECD average and remain among the top performers for each domain assessed (reading, math and science). Canada is unique by the very large size of students' samples because education policy is decided by each of ten provincial governments. This paper investigates neglected issues related specifically to 15-year-old students' educational achievement across Canadian provinces. The analysis estimates empirically across provinces the link between the family background, measured by socioeconomic status (SES), and educational skills measured by PISA test scores in reading and math. The SES used is more conventional then the arbitrary character of the index developed by PISA. First, average gaps in students' educational attainment between the lower and top SES quintiles, across provinces and years, provide evidence on the SES gradient in literacy and numeracy competencies. Second, gradients are estimated over the entire achievement distribution (SES gaps over nine deciles) for Canada and across provinces. The third research question relates to proficiency levels and socio-economic gradient, a forgotten subject but a decisive factor for later educational and economic success of young adults. The fourth research question assesses the trends in socio-economic inequalities from the lorgnette of skills measured over five PISA waves(2000 to 2012).Results show large socioeconomic differences in average PISA reading and math scores across provinces. There are wide-rangingvariations in the size of score gaps in the SES family background, a proxy for the extent of inequality of opportunities. Quintiles regression estimates expound that the gaps move up and down over the achievement decile scores distribution, and across provinces and waves for both reading and math scores. The association between family background and proficiency levels in both main domain tests is strong, with estimates illustrating significantly large socioeconomic gradients. Summary statistics and estimates on scores changes in bottom and top SES quintiles across provinces suggest that children's reading and math skills are still heavily linked to their family background.

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