Pan-Canadian Academic Program Delivers Good News on Science

A new Canadian report shows that most 8th grade students in the country have a decent grasp on science that they carry with them through their high school career.

This year's Pan-Canadian Academic Program found that 91% of students in the country perform at or above their grade level in the area of science.

The report also discovered a slight rise in the average reading and math scores from the 2010 results. Reading scores rose from an average of 500 to 508, and math scores rose from 500 to 507. The average science score was 500 this year, the first year an average score was found for science.

Administered every three years by a committee for the provincial education ministers, the Pan-Canadian Academic Program takes a closer look at the academic progress students have made in reading, science and math during their last year of middle school. The program chooses to focus on one discipline each cycle, with a smaller focus on the other two areas.

This year's results were taken from 32,000 students in all 10 Canadian provinces. The results do not include students any of the territories.

This marks the first year that the program has focused on science. The first time the study was performed in 2007, the focus was on reading, and the second, in 2010, focused on math.

"Science is such a very important domain to our country," Alberta Education Minister and CMEC chairman Gordon Dirks said in a telephone interview. "It's a domain that is vital to education, to economic development, to the future success of Canada. So we need to ensure that our students are getting the kind of quality education in science that our country expects and requires of our various education systems."

Test questions for the study were gathered through common elements to all curricula, rather than focusing on any one providence, to ensure a more genuine response.

A gender gap was not seen in science scores, with boys and girls performing equally well in the subject. While the same holds true for math scores, girls did perform better in literacy, which Dirks said raises a red flag for Canadian governments.

"Everybody wants to do everything that we can across the country to ensure that our teaching methods in reading are going to assist boys in the early years to get a solid start, that we do everything we can to improve boys' motivation to read, that we get the right kind of reading materials that are going to appeal to them," he said.

Dirks also said governments must not have false confidence in the test scores, but should remember that although the scores do reflect Canadian students performing well, there is still one in every 10 students who are not performing at their grade level, who do still need help.

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