Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Ontario's success a lesson we can learn from – O’Dowd

Stormont Executive press release - Department of Education

Canada’s success in breaking the link between social disadvantage and educational attainment can be a lesson we can learn from according to Education Minister John O’Dowd.

The Minister was speaking as he met with Ontario’s Education Minister, Liz Sandals, and visited the Albert Campbell Collegiate Institute in Toronto to meet with staff and students.

Speaking about Canada’s educational successes, Mr O’Dowd said: “The Canadian education system is recognised as a system that delivers high educational outcomes for its young people. Successive international surveys place Canada above the international average in the key areas of reading, mathematics and science.

Ontario, meanwhile, is leading the way within Canada. The 2009 Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA) results showed Ontario’s 15 year old students achieved significantly higher than the Canadian average, which in turn was well above the results for students from the north of Ireland.”

The recent Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) results of 10 year olds showed that students from the north of Ireland performed better than their counterparts in any other English speaking country in the world. By age 15, however, the most recent PISA results show that our performance has fallen to average. Mr O’Dowd used his discussions with Minister Sandals to explore how Ontario delivers high educational attainment at all levels.

The Minister continued: “My discussions with Minister Sandals were useful in exploring the challenges we face in both jurisdictions and how we are overcoming them. Minister Sandals was keen to hear how we deliver world class results at primary level with our 10 year olds performing so well on an international stage.

“I also explained to her the challenges we are facing in breaking the link between social disadvantage and educational attainment. Despite annual improvement in educational attainment, we are still faced with the challenge of narrowing the performance gap between those most and those least disadvantaged.

“Ontario is one of the few jurisdictions in the world that demonstrates a small gap in performance between high and low-income students. This is a characteristic of education systems that deliver both excellence and equity and is something that I am working hard to deliver in our education system.”

Mr O’Dowd went on to visit the Albert Campbell Collegiate Institute in Toronto where he met with the Toronto District Board of Education to discuss the issues of equity and parental engagement in education. Following his meeting the Minister took a tour of the school and met with staff and students.

Notes to editors:

1. The Department of Education’s ‘Education Works’ campaign encourages families to play, talk, read and count with their child and to ‘Get Involved Because Education Works’. The campaign highlights the vital role families can play in helping children do well at school and improve their life chances. Visit http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/education-works for more information.

Watch the TV ad on the Department’s YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/thedeptofeducation

2. View photos from the Department of Education in our collection at http://www.flickr.com/niexecutive