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Education indicators in Canada: An international perspective

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In 2008, 20% of Canadian teenagers aged 15 to 19 were no longer pursuing a formal education. This was higher than the average of 15% across the 31 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). While this OECD proportion was down from 20% in 1998, in Canada, it remained stable at 20%.

Provincially, the proportion of teenagers aged 15 to 19 no longer in school varied from 14% in New Brunswick to 26% in Alberta. The corresponding estimates for the territories ranged from 25% to 34%.

Some provinces appear to be more successful than others in meeting the challenge of integrating young people with relatively low educational attainment into the labour force.

In the Western provinces, there is an association between the relatively high employment rates (around 70%) and relatively high proportions of young people aged 15 to 19 not in education. This association suggests that labour markets with shortages can draw and employ young people regardless of their educational attainment, especially during periods of strong economic growth.

That said, employment and earnings prospects increase strongly with educational attainment. In 2008, the employment rate for Canadians aged 25 to 64 who had not completed high school was 58%, whereas the figure for college and university graduates was 83%.

Graduates from university programs earned considerably more, 75% more on average, than high school or trade/vocational program graduates.

According to the most recent data available, the college graduation rate in Canada, which includes only first-time graduates, was 26%, well above the OECD average rate of 10%. At the university level, the first-time bachelor's graduation rate was 34% in Canada, compared with the OECD average of 38%.

The report also shows that, in 2008, 42% of Canadians aged 25 to 64 had participated in formal or non-formal education or training (for job-related or personal reasons). This was comparable with the OECD average. The participation rate among those aged 25 to 34 was almost twice the rate of those aged 55 to 64.

Participation in adult education and training was related to educational attainment. In Canada, 18% of adults who had less than a high school diploma had participated in education and training. That figure tripled for college and university graduates.

Note: This information is contained in Education Indicators in Canada: An International Perspective, the second in a series that place aspects of the educational systems in Canada's provinces and territories into an international context. The indicators were developed to align with definitions and methodologies used by the OECD.

The report was prepared by the Canadian Education Statistics Council, a joint venture of Statistics Canada and the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada. It presents 10 indicators that capture information on educational attainment, graduation rates at the upper secondary and postsecondary levels, labour market outcomes, the economic benefits of education, expenditures on education, international students, transitions to the labour market, and participation in adult learning.

The report Education Indicators in Canada: An International Perspective, 2010 (81-604-X, free), is now available from the Key resource module of our website under Publications.

For more information, or to enquire about concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Client Services (toll-free 1-800-307-3382; 613-951-7608; fax: 613-951-4441;, Tourism and the Centre for Education Statistics Division.