School Spending and Performance in Canada and Other High-Income Countries

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School Spending and Performance in Canada and Other High-Income Countries
  • Analysis of 2018 data shows that higher levels of school spending among high-income OECD countries are not associated with higher levels of academic achievement.
  • Canadian 2018 spending on elementary and secondary spending ranked 14th among 34 high-income OECD countries, just above the average, and 4th lowest among G7 members.
  • Yet Canada’s 15-year-old students had higher combined average test scores in the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) than all but three of these high-income countries, as well as higher average scores than all G7 countries except Japan.
  • Provincial spending was in the upper-middle range of national expenditures, with highest-spending Saskatchewan ranking 5th among high-income OECD countries, and lowest-spending British Columbia just below the average.
  • Spending by top-scoring Alberta, Quebec, and Ontario was in the mid-range, while higher-spending Saskatchewan and Manitoba had significantly lower PISA scores.
  • The knowledge capital model underlying the study links increasing test scores to future growth and prosperity.
  • While Canada’s PISA scores are still comparatively high, they have been declining so that finding effective ways to improve them will become an increasingly pressing education and economic policy issue.
  • If higher spending is unlikely to produce higher test scores, however, it is not clear how this can be achieved.
  • The study concludes with a discussion of this issue, noting the importance of paying attention to comparative test scores as well as spending levels, and to the desirability of moving toward improved student testing in Canada.

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