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I read this really interesting report on math skills across Canada (The Globe and Mail, March 4 2011) and it shows some surprising stats that left me thinking that social background and setting have a lot to do with academic achievement and success.
The stats are moving pretty much from East to West in terms of improvement in math skills with the Eastern provinces lagging behind the Western. Here are a few quotes from the report:
Its reputation as a city where leafy affluence and the extreme poverty of the Downtown Eastside sit side by side is borne out in its numeracy levels. North Vancouver and the city’s prosperous west end boast some of the most numerate neighbourhoods in Canada. (B.C. is itself one of the country’s most numerate provinces.) But as the city’s east end stretches into Burnaby, where more than half of residents have a mother tongue other than English or French, the proficiency drops.
One might not expect a city nicknamed “Cowtown” to be among the most numerate big cities, but Calgary has a multitude of characteristics working in its favour. Its economy has expanded, leading to low unemployment and high incomes. And it is a young city, with a median age under 36 – and research shows younger people tend to be more numerate. However, neighbourhoods east of the Deerfoot Trail, where household incomes fall below the city’s average, scored somewhat more poorly.
A picture of have and have-not pockets, it is the country’s economic engine, but also has one if its highest unemployment rates. Its downtown core performs well, and swathes of west-end Etobicoke also have strong scores. But at the point where the city’s larger suburbs begin – areas where immigration becomes a larger factor – levels immediately fall to the low-end of the scale. “Where you have a large quantity of immigrants, that’s going to make a big difference,” Dr. Cappon said.
As a small capital city, Ottawa attracts professionals with at least some post-secondary education to relatively stable government jobs. The city has a strong technology sector and it is also home to the University of Ottawa and Carleton University, which attract large crops of young, educated people who can be expected to have a “greening” effect on their communities. Nevertheless, the Gatineau side of the capital region has not kept pace.
The polarization in Montreal between a highly numerate downtown core and less numerate areas mostly concentrated in the north end does not surprise Dr. Cappon: the city has a substantial immigrant population and some new immigrants are known to struggle with all types of literacy. Quebec as a whole has lagged behind Canada’s language-literacy levels, according to Dr. Cappon, but its school system’s emphasis on mathematics has bolstered its performance with numeracy, which meets the national average.
The map shows numeracy steadily improving from province to province as it scans from east to west. The Atlantic provinces have the lowest standing, with an average of well over 60 per cent of their populations at Level 2 or below. In Alberta and British Columbia, that percentage has dropped to a range from mid to high 40 per cent, with Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba in between.
There is no single explanation for the trend. Dr. Cappon points out that schools in the western provinces have scored higher in math in standardized test scores, which might suggest the region is setting students up to be more numerate. He also pointed out the West has a younger demographic and attracts more immigrants who arrive with high levels of education. Kjell Rubenson, a professor at the University of British Columbia specializing in adult education, believes it can be partly explained by the expectations of labour markets.“[In the West], I think you probably had jobs that in themselves had higher demands.”
*All maps, images, and quotes are original from an article in The Globe & Mail, published on their website on Friday, March 4, 2011. For more maps and stats, please visit the original report at:
Bradshaw, J. (2011) Mapping Canada’s Math Skills Reveals Huge Disparities. The Globe & Mail. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/mapping-canadas-math-skills-reveals-huge-disparities/article1931149/
I look forward to the newest (2009) report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. I have started reading it and I will provide some stats from the report.
Some quick facts from the 2004 report:
(The report on education is based on 2002 and 2001 statistics provided by its 30 member countries.)
Education and employment