Introduction to the data on second language education and literacy

In Canada, public French and English as a Second Language education is a prerogative of the provinces and therefore varies in important ways. The programs fall mainly into two categories: French as a Second Language Immersion Programs, and regular Second Language Programs (ESES Definitions, 2016; Brockington, 2011: 51; Statistics Canada, 2013: 60-61).

In the French as a Second Language Immersion Program at least 25% of the instruction occurs in student's second language (Brockinton, 2011: 51). On the other hand, in regular Second Language Programs the second official language is taught as a subject among other regular course offerings. One or more additional subjects can also be taught in the student’s second official language but second language instruction must total less than 25% of all instruction time (Brockinton, 2011: 51). 

It is also worth noting that other official language programs exist such as the Aboriginal Second Language Program (i.e. Core Aboriginal) as well as the Aboriginal Immersion programs. In the former, the Aboriginal language is taught as a subject and may not exceed 25% of all instruction time. While the latter entails instruction of the Aboriginal language for Aboriginal students 100% of the time (ESES Definitions, 2016).

Data on reading and writing skills comes from more than a dozen different surveys dealing with Literacy, Numeracy, and other educational outcomes. However, among these, two primary sources stand out: The Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) for adults 16-65 and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) for 15-year old students. 

The first is a multi-cycle international survey that targets Canadian adults aged 16-65 (excluding residents of aboriginal reserves, institutionalized persons, and members of the Armed Forces). In 2012, it sampled approximately 49,000 individuals in Canada for their education, training, labour, and literacy profile.

The second survey targets students who are 15 years of age and attend any form of schooling in the ten provinces of Canada. It tests for reading, mathematics, science, and problem-solving. Because the survey is conducted according to a three-year rotational cycle, users looking for literacy-specific information should refer to the 2000 and 2009 cycles. We reproduce below the PISA literacy theoretical framework  (Knighton, Brochu, Gluszynski, 2010: 14)

PISA Reading Theoretical Framework

PISA Reading Theoretical Framework

Data tables - education

One of the main surveys used for capturing information on education programs is the Elementary-Secondary Education Survey (ESES). Data tables for this survey can be divided into tables on educatorsenrolments, and graduates. In terms of educators, we provide the total number of full-time and part-time educators at elementary and secondary levels. We also provide three tables for enrolments. Tables 2, 3, and 4 deal with regular, aboriginal, and second language programs respectively while table 5 provides graduation counts.

  1. Number of full-time and part-time educators in public elementary and secondary schools by age and sex for Canada, Provinces and Territories. (Cat. CANSIM 477-0028)

  2. Number of students in regular programs for youth, public elementary and secondary schools, by grade and sex for Canada, Provinces and Territories. (Cat. CANSIM 477-0025)

  3. Headcount enrolments in public school Aboriginal language programs for Canada, Provinces and Territories (Cat. CANSIM 477-0039)

  4. Enrollments in official languages programs offered in public elementary and secondary schools, by type of program, grade, and sex for Canada, Provinces and Territories (Cat. CANSIM 477-0027)

  5. Number of graduates from regular programs for youth, public schools, by age group and sex for Canada, Provinces and Territories. (Cat. CANSIM 477-0026)

Data tables - literacy

For a simple population count according to literacy or numeracy scores please consult the first table. For relations with 1) Aboriginal, Immigrant, or Minority language status, 2) industry, 3) labour force status and highest level of education see the subsequent tables.

  1. Literacy and Numeracy by Sex and Age for Canada, Provinces and Territories (Cat. CANSIM 477-0079)

  2. Literacy and Numeracy by Aboriginal, Immigrant, Minority Language Status, and Sex for selected provinces and territories. (Cat. CANSIM 477-0087)

  3. Literacy and Numeracy by Industry and Sex for Canada, Provinces and Territories (Cat. CANSIM 477-0083)

  4. Literacy and Numeracy by Labour Force Status, Highest Level of Education, and Age for Canada, Provinces and Territories (Cat. CANSIM 477-0081)

Data for the 2009 PISA survey can be found in Volume I of the project and include 42 tables on Canadian’s reading proficiency compared internationally. For microdata access to data tables, see the The Research Data Centres (RDC) Program. Below we include six tables that compare Canada to other countries world-wide across different aspects of the reading skill, as assessed by the project. 

Overall Score - International

PISA Reading Proficiency Scale (228.35 KB)

Subcomponents - International

Accessing and Retrieving (229.72 KB)

Integrating and Interpreting (229.71 KB) 

Reflect and Evaluate (229.73 KB)

Continuous Texts  (230.91 KB)

Non-Continous Texts.pdf (230.91 KB)

Related publications

  1. Allen, M. (2004) Does French immersion improve reading achievement? Canadian Social Trends.
  2. Allen, M. (2004) French immersion 30 years laterEducation Matters: Insights on education, learning, and training in Canada.
  3. Arriagada, P. and Hango, D. (2016) Literacy and numeracy among off-reserve First Nations people and Métis: Do higher skill levels improve labour market outcomes? Insights on Canadian Society.
  4. Bérard-Chagnon, J. (2015) Competencies in literacy among Ontario Francophones: Current situation and emerging issues. Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division, Statistics Canada.
  5. Bérard-Chagnon, J. and Lepage, J.F. (2016) The literacy skills of Newbrunswick Francophones: Demographic and Socioeconomic Issues. Ethnicity, Language and Immigration Thematic Series. 
  6. Bonikowska, A., Green, D., and Riddell, C. (2008) Literacy and the labour market: Cognitive skills and immigrant earningsInternational Adult Literacy Survey.
  7. Boothby, D., (2002) Literacy Skills, Occupational Assignment and the Returns to Over- and Under-Education.International Adult Literacy Survey
  8. Brockington, R. (2011) Summary public school indicators for Canada, the Provinces and Territories, 2005/2006 to 2009/2010Culture, Tourism and the Center for Education Statistics Research Papers. Cat. 81-595-M-no.095
  9. Clark, W. (2002) 100 years of educationCanadian Social Trends.
  10. Corbeil, J.P. (1998) Literacy: does language make a difference? Canadian Social Trends.
  11. Corbeil, J.P. (2000) Literacy in Canada: Disparity between Francophones and AnglophonesDemography Division.
  12. Corbeil, J.P. (2003) 30 years of education: Canada’s language groups. Canadian Social Trends.
  13. Corbeil, J.P. (2006) The Canadian component of the 2003 international adult literacy and skills survey (IALSS): The situation of official language minorities. International Adult Literacy Survey.
  14. Coulombe, S., Tremblay, J.-F., and Marchand, S. (2004) Literacy scores, human capital and growth across fourteen OECD countries. International Adult Literacy Survey.
  15. Ferrer, A., Green, D., and Riddell, C. (2004) The effect of literacy on immigrant earnings. International Adult Literacy Survey.
  16. Findlay, L. and Kohen, D. (2013) Measures of Language Outcomes using the Aboriginal Children’s Survey. Health Reports.
  17. Findlay, L., and Kohen, D., (2012) Neighbourhood factors and language outcomes of First nations Preschoolers living off reserve: Findings from the Aboriginal Children’s Survey. International Indigenous Policy Journal.
  18. Green, D., and Riddell, C. (2001) Literacy, Numeracy, and Labour Market outcomes in CanadaInternational Adult Literacy Survey.
  19. Green, D., and Riddell, C., (2007) Literacy and the market: The generation of literacy and its impact on earnings for native born CanadiansInternational Adult Literacy Survey.
  20. Grenier, S., Jones, S., Strucker, J., Murray, T.S., Gervais, G., and Brink., S. (2008) Learning literacy in Canada: Evidence from the international survey of reading skills. International Adult Literacy Survey.
  21. Guèvremont, A., and Kohen, D., (2012) Knowledge of an Aboriginal language and school outcomes for children and adults. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism.
  22. Knighton, T., Brochu, P., Gluszynski, T. (2010) Measuring Up: Canadian results of the OECD PISA study. The performance of Canada`s youth in reading, mathematics, and science. Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Council of Ministers of Education, and Statistics Canada.
  23. Krahn, H., and Lowe, G. (1998) Literacy utilization in Canadian workplaces. International Adult Literacy Survey.
  24. Mady, C. & Black, G. (2012). Access to French as a second official language programs in English-dominant Canada.Alberta Journal of Educational Research 57 (4) 498-501.
  25. Mady, C., and Turnbull, M. (2010) Learning French as a second official language: Reserved for anglophones. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy99.
  26. OECD (2010) PISA 2009 results: What students know and Can Do – Student Performance in Reading, Mathematics and Science (Volume I).
  27. Osberg, L. (2000) Schooling, Literacy and Individual EarningsInternational Adult Literacy Survey.
  28. Rubenson, K., Desjardins, R., and Yoon, E.-S. (2007) Adult learning in Canada: A comparative perspective. International Adult Literacy Survey.
  29. Shipley, L. (2011) A profile of Minority-language students in Canada: Results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), 2009. Culture, Tourism, and the Centre for Education Statistics.
  30. Statistics Canada (2016) Education Indicators in Canada: An International Perspective, 2015. Tourism and the Centre for Education Statistics.
  31. Taylor, A. and Krahn, H. (2005) Aiming high: Educational aspirations of visible minority immigrant youth
  32. Tremblay, S., Ross, N., and Berthelot, J-M. (2002) Ontario Grade 3 student achievement. Canadian Social Trends.
  33. Turcotte, M. (2011) Intergenerational education mobility: University completion in relation to parents’ education level.Canadian Social Trends. (Cat. 11-008-X)
  34. Wagner, S. (2002) Literacy and Literacy Training of Francophones in Canada: Results of the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS)International Adult Literacy Survey.
  35. Willms, D., and Murray, S., (2007) Gaining and losing literacy skills over the life courseInternational Adult Literacy Survey.
  36. Zeman, K. (2007) If you build it they will come: The impact of new universities on local youth. Education Matters: Insights on Education, Learning and Training in Canada.