Research Group on Human Capital - Working Paper Series No. 20-03
Schools have been closed across the country and will remain so until September. The decision to reopen should take into account current inequalities in education across the country and the impact of school interruptions on the accumulation of cognitive skills. In this article, we document the evolution of the cognitive skills gap across Canada using PISA data. We use PISA tests scores over 7 cycles, from 2000 to 2018, to provide an exhaustive portrait of the evolution of the tests scores distribution over time and by parental socioeconomic status. We find that the achievement gap between top performing students (p90) and students facing challenges (p10) is large. It represents about 4 years of schooling. We also show that socioeconomic differences in PISA scores, in reading, maths and science, are large but unwavering. In other words inequality by SES is stable, and decreasing in some years. There are variations in the size of the SES score gaps by provinces, a proxy for the extent of inequality of opportunities. Using estimates from the literature on the impact of school closures, we find that the SES skills gap could increase by 30 percent.
socioeconomic inequalities PISA literacy and numeracy skills proficiency scales provincial education policy education attainment gradient Canadian provinces