Students with High-Level Problem-Solving Skills

 
 

Student High-Level Problem-Solving Skills

The percentage of 15-year-old students scoring at the highest proficiency level (level 3) on the problem-solving section of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test.
 

Please note:
The data on this page are current as of January 2010.

Key Messages

  • Canada gets a "B" grade and ranks 5th out of 16 peer countries.
  • PISA incorporated problem-solving testing only in its 2003 test cycle, so it is not possible to determine whether Canadian students’ skills have improved over time.
  • Problem solving is a more advanced skill that may be indicative of preparation for advanced degrees and ultimately a country’s innovative capacity.

Putting student problem-solving skills in context

Problem solving differs from mathematics, reading, and science in that it is not a traditional school subject. Problem-solving tests assess the degree to which students can solve problems in contexts that are not confined to one discipline (such as reading, math, or science) and draw on students’ knowledge from a variety of sources. Problem solving is a more advanced skill that may be indicative of preparation for advanced degrees and ultimately a country’s innovative capacity.

Students with high-level problem-solving skills are described as not only being able to analyze a situation and make decisions but also being capable of managing multiple conditions simultaneously. They can think about the underlying relationships in a problem, solve it systematically, check their work, and communicate the results.1

PISA is an international assessment of the skills and knowledge of 15 year olds, coordinated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It assesses whether students approaching the end of compulsory education have acquired the knowledge and skills that are essential for full participation in society. In 2003, PISA tested for problem-solving skills.

How do the high-level problem-solving skills of Canadian students compare to those of Canada's peers?

Canada ranks 5th out of 16 peer countries and gets a "B" in the Conference Board comparison. Twenty-five per cent of Canadian students achieved the highest level on the problem-solving test. Japan and Finland, "A" performers in our rankings, scored 36 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively.

Footnote

1 OECD. Problem Solving for Tomorrow’s World: First Measures of Cross-Curricular Competencies from PISA 2003 (Paris: OECD, 2004), p. 3

Education and Skills Indicators