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School rankings put to the test

By Amy Hadley Perceptions that Westside schools provide higher quality education are fueled by the Fraser Institute school rankings, said…

By Amy Hadley , in City , on October 25, 2007

By Amy Hadley

Perceptions that Westside schools provide higher quality education are fueled by the Fraser Institute school rankings, said John OliverEastside schools score lower than Westside schools in Fraser Institute reports. principal Kevan Moore.

The Institute’s school report cards take into account academic indicators including provincial exam marks and graduation rates and are published annually as a guide for school-shopping parents.

The reports consistently rank private schools at the top. High-ranking public schools include University Hill, Kitsilano, Lord Byng and Prince of Wales – all Westside schools. John Oliver, Sir Charles Tupper, and other Eastside schools tend to fare worse.

John Oliver Secondary consistently places last. Moore criticized the ratings for an academic focus that fails to value the achievements of students who excel in areas like trades.

Moore is not alone. The BC Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) has voiced similar concerns. The report relies on a narrow measure that “ranks schools inappropriately,” said Susan Lambert, first vice president of the BCTF.

The rankings only serve to criticize “schools that are struggling to mitigate the social and economic conditions in which they find themselves,” said Lambert.

Peter Cowley is co-author of the Fraser Institute BC secondary and elementary school reports. He said that the very groups critical of his study bear a responsibility to provide the information they think is missing.

“They say it doesn’t show a big picture…of course it doesn’t.” Neither, he said, do alternative reports like George Bluman’s.

Bluman, a professor of mathematics at UBC, compiles a yearly report ranking student performance in first year UBC calculus courses.

The Fraser Institute report doesn’t look at how students perform after high school graduation. That presents an “unfair comparison,” said Bluman, because schools with a greater percentage of students in academic programs “are automatically favoured.”

Bluman’s rankings find public school students outsmarting private school graduates. Once night school results are factored out, public schools in the East of Vancouver, versus West, show very little difference in performance, said Bluman.


  • The result of 2007 THES-QS World University Rankings (Times Higher Education Supplement-Quacquarelli Symbols) has been reported recently on local news programs. It has been accounted that University of the Philippines and Ateneo de Manila University were the only Philippine universities to be included in the Top 500 list. Undeniably, the result of this ranking (and other similar rankings) will conversely reinforce the full blown superiority complex of students and faculty of these institutions. This will be an additional reason for them to maintain their self-righteous delusion that they are far more academically-competent than those who are outside their academic bubble.

    Lest, I would sound unreasonably disagreeable and defiant about school rankings because my alma mater, New Era University, has not been hailed as one of the top schools (locally or globally), I am inclined to say that such rankings are utterly aimless and nonsensical in nature. These rankings are winnowed out from surveys and are far from being objective. The quality of education, which these rankings attempt to measure, is immeasurable. This leads people behind these rankings to create self-imposed criteria. These criteria, along with its results, will conversely vary from one study (or survey) to another, from one period of time to another. These variations and other subjective factors are poor determinants of who should the top schools be. This is then the central reason why I describe school rankings to be pointless and aimless. To put it bluntly, these rankings are being disclosed for the sheer glorification of certain institutions.

    To a large extent, school rankings could be a potential antecedent for school bashing. Institutions, regardless of their perceived academic superiority, were established to promote learning. If we continue to be fanatics of school rankings, this would just create a broader gap between the so-caled top schools and the lesser-fancied schools. This gap would mean a monopoly of quality education, which should not be the case. I am a firm believer that knowledge is universal. And the so-called quality education largely depends on the learner himself.

    I am from New Era University. I am not from any of those top schools, but I have learned what I’m supposed to learn.

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