|English: Students at the Frankland School, Toronto, Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
It turns out there is some truth to the notion that Canada is a land of opportunity. Children of the second generation – the offspring of immigrants – outperform other Canadian-born children in school. And the first generation does just as well as the native-born.
Both of those accomplishments are pretty rare in the world. But because it is unseemly to gush about ourselves, we’ll let the OECD study known as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which tests 15-year-olds in mostly affluent countries, do it for us.
“For comparison’s sake, in the 2006 PISA assessment of reading, Canadian first-generation immigrants scored an average of 520 points, as opposed to less than 490 in the United States and less than 430 in France,” says a 2010 report called Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education: Lessons from PISA for the United States. The gap between Canada and the U.S. is the equivalent of about a full year of schooling. There’s been no suggestion things have changed since that report.
It does raise a question, though: Why, in this land of opportunity, don’t the Canadian-born keep up? Any number of answers suggest themselves. Some studies have found that, because immigrant parents experience a loss of social status – taking lower-paying jobs than back home – their children feel driven to succeed. The Canadian-born do have the social networks to help them along that immigrant children may lack. Maybe that promotes a more relaxed attitude to school.
Apparently the word about Canadian schools is getting out. Anecdotally, immigrants are drawn by the strong public school system in Canada. Though it is not only the schools that deserve the credit. Part of Canada’s strength is the points system of immigrant selection. Immigrants chosen under this system are more educated than the Canadian average. And their children “attend schools that by all measures are relatively equal,” the PISA report says. Further, “philosophically, they are welcomed as part of Canada’s commitment to multiculturalism.”
It’s a virtuous circle. Canada needs immigrants to grow and thrive. It draws immigrants with a deep belief in education; it provides opportunity for their children, and the success of those children reinforces the welcome given to immigrants.
If Canada is looking to brand itself among the world’s best and brightest, it might not find a better one than that.