This, as too many pundits say, is a good question. It turns out that there is a measure that I’m sure can be heavily criticized by parties whose agenda the results do not fit. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) runs a program called the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). PISA tests students across the globe in 81 countries every four years. The latest results for 2022 are available in two volumes, Volume I: The State of Learning and Equity in Education, and Volume II: Learning During – and From – Disruption.
From Volume I, here is a table of testing results for 2022:
As can be seen, Canada ranks 9th globally, well ahead of the US and most of Europe but behind the North Asia-Pacific region which is growing in economic dominance. Despite its high ranking, however, Canada’s score dropped 15 points from the last test in 2018.
There are, however, a couple of tables that shed some light on education in Canada. From Student performance in maths (mean score) data (xls spreadsheet) from Volume I, we have the following table:
Table 1.2.4 from Student performance in maths
This table has both national and subnational (regional) rankings which in Canada’s case means the 10 provinces. From this we see that Quebec ranks 7th, globally ahead of the aggregate score for Canada at 13th place. Alberta ranks 10th. I have only shown the top 48 rankings. Downloading the complete table reveals Manitoba in 56th spot, Nova Scotia in 57th spot, New Brunswick in 62nd spot, Saskatchewan in 63rd spot and Newfoundland and Labrador in 74th spot. Notably, the Atlantic provinces lag the rest of Canada in math performance by a rather large degree.
There is a second table testing for proficiency in science:
Table 1.2.6 from Student performance in maths
Here, Alberta is in 5th place followed by BC in 9th place, Ontario in 10th place and Canada overall in 11th place. Quebec placed 12th. New Brunswick, in 56th place is outside of the table range shown.
I am always suspicious about global data sets as countries vary widely in their economic, social and political makeup. I would think that this makes a uniform measure a challenge. In this case, assuming some measure of standardization in the testing, this may be the best we have.
From this data, Canada is doing very well among developed economies. However, there is a clear deficiency in East-coast education versus the rest of the country, particularly Alberta.