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Comparing Education Systems in the UK, USA and Canada - Merrick Prep

Published Bernice on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 12:00 AM

Comparing Education Systems in the UK, USA and Canada

“Ontario Secondary School Diploma – number one choice for students – why?”

In the next 3 weeks we will share with you more information about the Ontario Secondary School Diploma. We will start by giving you some idea how  Canada, UK and USA compare to each other, followed by giving you more information about Canada, specifically the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) and finalizing the series by comparing the OSSD, AP & IB program. We hope this will help you when you speak to families explaining to them why an education in Ontario, Canada is an amazing choice 😊. Enjoy reading!

It is important to place the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) in context with other educational systems around the world to understand better why Ontario, Canada is a great destination to select for a child’s education.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), along with various other agencies and institutions, have done in depth studies on education systems around the world.  As Canada’s education systems are controlled by individual provinces, Canada consistently ranks as the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th best education systems in the world.  This is whole education systems, Kindergarten to PhD. 
By comparison, the UK ranks 13th, Australia 24th and the USA 31st.  Japan is found to have the best overall education system, with Finland and Canada often tying for 2nd.  Again, these are evaluations of whole education systems, from Kindergarten to PhD.  However, when we break it down to specifically high school education systems, Canada ranks #1.  In fact, due to Canada having provincial education systems, Canada ranks #1, 2, 3 in the world for high school attainment.  And given neither Japan nor Finland teaches in English, if you are looking for the best English language whole education system in the world, Kindergarten to PhD, Canada again ranks #1.

As an overarching review of the high school systems, the UK system is quite narrow and rigid, students “self-select” or “stream” at age 14-15 and begin focusing on one set of courses and exams – the “A levels” - limiting their choices of study and career options as they self-select in or out of science, math, social studies, with a heavy weighting on the final exam after two years of study. The opportunity for a broad-minded education is lost in this narrowing process and focus on heavily weight final exams; a broad global perspective including reasoning, rational and critical thought, analytical and critical problem-solving skills, along with collaboration, cooperation, entrepreneurial skills development, and community and civic engagement is lost in this system of narrowed streaming.  The UK heavily weights exams, focuses almost exclusively on academics, has no community or service component, and does not address the education of the whole child; it is a narrow-streamed education system. 

The USA, by contrast, allows for a broader education in a wider variety of subjects and greater educational exposure for its students, but the structural support, the standards and quality is lacking and the variability in quality is cataclysmically wide – thus their ranking as the 31st education system in the world, behind every single Canadian provincial education system.  The variance in the quality of education in the USA, not to mention the opportunities that flow from it, cannot be under-estimated.  The US standard is not consistent and varies from school to school, and district to district with unpredictable outcomes.  Teaching staff in the US are generally very low paid and even a good school can change to one with questionable outcomes as there is inconsistent oversight and a change in staff will not guarantee the same standard; in Canada this cannot happen due to high standards, structural consistency, Ministry inspections and highly educated teachers with a minimum standard that must be met.  There is much more oversight and regulation in Canada, which allows for consistently high quality.

Lastly, a recent survey of university student’s conducted by, ranked Canada as the top country in the world in which to study, for the second year in a row, beating out 4th ranked USA and 5th ranked UK, based on quality of teaching, achieving career goals, personal development, inclusive multicultural society (and this is very important for international students), adventure and widening professional networks, in addition to the stellar reputation of Canadian universities worldwide.

In summary, various studies, including the OECD and the Conference Board of Canada, consistently rank Canada’s whole education system, Kindergarten to PhD, as #2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 based on the province, often tied with Finland for second.  When we look strictly at high school education systems, Canada ranks #1, 2, 3.  When we look at English only whole education systems, Kindergarten to PhD, again, Canada holds the #1, 2, 3 spots.   The UK ranks 13th and the USA 31st

To be continued….

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