PISA puts focus on poverty

Dec. 6, 2016

Both MTS President Norm Gould and Education Minister Ian Wishart say poverty must be addressed to improve outcomes in Manitoba schools.

The two were reacting to the release of the latest test results of the international Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

The results showed Canada as a whole performed well against other countries and economies, but within Canada Manitoba ranked near the bottom.

“We find the PISA results interesting, but limited in what they tell us,” says Gould. “They don’t give us local information on context, resources or student knowledge of the Manitoba curriculum.

“Manitoba teachers don’t need PISA results to tell us we have diverse needs and challenges in our classrooms. We know one area in which Manitoba students rank highest – child poverty. Two weeks ago a national report card* ranked Manitoba’s rate of child poverty as the highest in Canada for the second straight year. If we want to improve student outcomes, start with the basic needs like food, clothing, shelter.”

In an interview with CJOB, Wishart agreed that poverty is a major issue.

“We know we have challenges in terms of poverty and, frankly, there is a direct relationship between living in poverty and school results.”

Wishart said the government would be working with teachers to focus on early years literacy and numeracy. He said teachers need the time and flexibility to work with kids who need help.

“I would not say for a moment that this is a teacher’s problem by any stretch. We know they have the knowledge and we simply have to give them … additional flexibility to actually deal with the problem.

“We have to work together.”

Gould said the best measure of how students are doing is their teachers.

“Manitoba’s teachers are some of the most highly trained in the country and use a variety of assessment and evaluation techniques every day in classrooms all across the province. We should be asking ourselves why we are participating in international tests and what benefits we get from it.”