Comment From J: Modernization doesn't equal an appetite to learn. I used to think the same way as you did till I actually traveled to China. There is a very big disconnect between learning something in a book and actually applying it. Even simple instructions as "Don't push into a crowded train when the barriers are closing" are lost in China, imagine pushing an old lady into closing suicide barriers only to have it clamp on her painfully for 5 minutes. I'm not disparaging the need for better math/science/writing but if you concentrate too much on those only without regard to liberal/social arts (which makes a person contemplate their actions) you run the risk of creating mindless drones. In any case another big problem in the fact that kids from China/Asia do better in math than we do comes in the quality of our Profs. During U, I had no way of understanding the profs as they could barely speak English. In this way, students from Asia who don't have to listen to the prof and have already covered the material are at a distinct advantage.
Andrew Parkin: I think there are other points we could reflect on. Are Canadians surprised, for instance, that our students do better in reading, math and science than those of most other western countries, including the US? I am not sure that this is a message we are used to hearing.
Comment From J: I don't think that's a surprise due to us being "socialists". It's obvious that when you raise the floor, the average comes up. Raising the ceiling doesn't really help averages.
Andrew Parkin: In fact, Canada has both a greater proportion of high achievers than the OECD average, and a smaller proportion of low achievers. We have raised both the floor and the ceiling. Excellence and equity can go together.
Kate Hammer: But the proportion of high achievers has declined over the years. Shouldn't this be a major concern for educators?
Comment From J: Of course the downside of it is that we become comfortable (too comfortable) and that change that may be needed comes slowly and with little fanfare.
Andrew Parkin: Yes, it has declined somewhat -- noticeably but not dramatically. It should be a concern. We would not want it to continue.
Andrew Parkin: Also, to link the last two comments, PISA helps us to ensure we don't become too comfortable. By noticing that our proportion of high achievers has fallen -- even if we continue to do well -- we ensure that we are prompted to examine how to keep doing better.
Kate Hammer: We've run out of time, but I'd like to thank everyone for their comments and thank Andrew for joining us.
Andrew Parkin: Thank you everyone. Enjoy reading the reports!