Our involvement with the education systems in both England and Quebec, Canada, has provided us with a unique perspective on both. In the following series we examine the challenges they face and compare the two.

In Charles Dickens’ 1859 novel, A tale of Two Cities, the author refers to London and Paris during the time of the violent upheavals of the French Revolution. We have alluded to this novel when comparing England and Canada in the past and we shall do so again here, specifically, England and the Province of Quebec, Canada.

It’s always best when making comparisons such as this to place things within a little context, so we’ll first bring you up to date on the political and economic landscape the two education systems are operating in.

In England, the political and economic climate is one of instability, with Tory governments in a continual state of upheaval, and with them the Ministers of Education. A general election is on the horizon in 2025, which could result in a change to the ruling Conservative Party, which has been in power since May 2010 (although for the first four years this was as the senior part of a coalition with the Liberals). The country continues to adapt to its exit from Europe and inflation blights the economy, with the retail price index (RPI) which includes the cost of mortgages standing at 13.4 per cent in February 2023 and the consumer price index (CPI) at 10.4 per cent. Both of these rates are unheard of in this century and have risen from below 1 per cent in the space of two years.

In Quebec, the 2022 election strengthened the hold of the ruling Coalition Avenir Quebec, which gained a majority in the previous election held in 2018. As a result, the overall approach to policy adopted over the past few years continues. Quebec is also experiencing inflation, though on a lesser scale. The CPI rose 6.8 per cent on an annual average basis in 2022, following gains of 3.4 per cent in 2021 and of 0.7 per cent in 2020. The increase in 2022 represented a 40-year high, the largest increase since 1982 (+10.9 per cent). Since then it has fallen to 5.9 per cent.

It is difficult to compare the performance of the education systems, however, the most recent PISA results for 2018 (the 2022 tests were delayed because of Covid) allow us to draw some form of comparison of the impact on student performance in our two countries. Here, the maths and science results in Quebec are the highest of any province in Canada, which in itself is higher than any of the other G7 countries of which the United Kingdom is also a member. In Maths it is one of the highest performers in the world (PISA Results a breakdown by Province – Fraser Institute Blog February 2022).

The results for the PISA tests for the United Kingdom place it 13th whilst Canada is 2nd. England’s mean score for reading was similar to scores for Scotland and Northern Ireland, and all three had scores significantly higher than Wales. In both science and mathematics, the mean scores for England were significantly higher than the scores for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which were not significantly different from each other.


From this we can conclude that both education systems are performing above international averages and are ranking amongst the best, with Quebec performing better than England.  Now within this broad context we describe the current issues facing each education system.

In both systems, a significant number of schools have embraced aspects of our work, such as Teaching Schools, school-to-school work, membership of Olevi and Challenge Partners in England and coaching and mentoring in the English Sector in Quebec. As they reported recently in some cases as with the Western Quebec School Board and Diverse Academies in England, they have adopted the effective knowledge management approach to school improvement and are using it as the basis for the systemwide transformation of their schools. This provides one of the major common factors in their education systems whilst in other aspects, such as accountability and ownership, they are considerably different.

Over the next two blog posts we will examine each education system in detail, focusing on the particular issues facing the relevant schools which present significant challenges, as well as highlighting some considerable successes.

Take and stay safe.