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Report of the Pan-Canadian Education Indicators Program 2003 Catalogue number About the Pan-Canadian Educational Indicators Program Highlights Figures and tables Full publication in PDF format Previous issues


A Portrait of the School-Age Population
Financing Education Systems
Elementary-Secondary Education
Postsecondary Education
Transitions and Outcomes

A Portrait of the School-Age Population

Chapter A presents the evolution of some key characteristics of the school-age population during the 1990s, and attempts to highlight some of the challenges for the education systems in Canada.

Due to the recent drop in births, Canada can expect the population aged 5 to 13 to decline by an estimated 14% between 2001 and 2011. As the small generations born in the second half of the 1990s age, a corresponding drop is expected for the population aged 14 to 18 between 2006 and 2016 and, for the 19- to 24-year-olds, between 2016 and 2026.

All jurisdictions could be facing a period of decline in their school-age population. However, the level at which the school-age population would stabilize at the end of the projection period varies by jurisdiction depending on the level and direction of both internal and international migrations. Despite the decline in births, the school-age population could stabilize at levels higher than or close to those of 1991 in three provinces, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia and two territories, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, while it could end up below the 1991 levels in the Atlantic provinces, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Yukon.

Since 1990, an average of 225,000 new immigrants of all ages arrive in Canada every year. This influx is having a profound impact on the ethnic, linguistic, and cultural diversity of Canadian schools. In terms of diversity, two Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) stand out: Toronto and Vancouver. The 2001 Census showed that, in both these CMAs, over 25% of the school-age population were immigrants, over 40% were visible minorities, and close to 20% had a home language other than English or French.

The home environment of school-age children is also changing. School-age children in 2001 were less likely than those in 1991 to have parents who were married. The youngest were more likely to be born to a lone parent or to experience parental separation, and, with higher proportions of parents working in 2001 than in 1991, they were also less likely to have a parent at home.

Young adults aged 19 to 24 were staying in their parents’ homes in higher proportions in 2001 than in 1991. Children in lone-parent families and youth who have left the parental home were more likely to experience low income and for longer periods than those who lived in two-parent families.

Financing Education Systems

Chapter B offers an overview of expenditure on education in Canada. The chapter examines expenditures on a per-student and per-capita basis as well as in relation to the gross domestic product (GDP), and distinguishes public and private as well as capital and current expenditures.

Between 1997-1998 and 2001-2002, the total education expenditure in Canada rose 6% in 2001 constant dollars; the average cost per student for all educational levels combined rose 5.6% while the expenditure per capita increased 2%. Most of the increase occurred at the postsecondary level.

In 1999-2000, expenditure on education represented 6.6% of the Canadian GDP. According to OECD, Canada ranked first among the G-7 countries in 1999 with respect to the percentage of the GDP allocated to education, followed by the United States. The territories and the small provinces allocated a higher percentage of their GDP to education than the large provinces.

In 2001, governments as a whole in Canada spent 15% of their total expenditure on education compared to 17% for health. Until 2000, they had spent more on education than health. Between 1997-1998 and 2001-2002, public expenditure on education grew 2% at the elementary-secondary level and 9% at the postsecondary level.

Private funding also plays an important role in education. In 2001-2002, 7% of all expenditure at the elementary-secondary level and 27% at the postsecondary level came from private sources. In 2000, 43% of households incurred education expenses, spending an average of $1,946. Tuition fees at universities increased during the 1990s. They almost doubled for undergraduate programs between 1990-1991 and 2001-2002, rising from an average of $1,806 to $3,585 (in 2001 constant dollars).

Between 1990-1991 and 1999-2000, student tuition and other non-government revenue increased from 32% to 45% of total university revenue.

Most of the expenditure at the elementary-secondary level is on teachers’ salaries, which accounted for about three-quarters of all expenditures in 1999-2000.

Salaries of university and college faculty fell slightly in 2001 constant dollars during the 1990s. In 1999-2000, female university full and associate professors earned 95% of what their male counterparts earned.

In Canada, 1995 graduates who borrowed from government student loan programs owed on average just over $10,000 at graduation, one-third more than 1990 graduates. In all jurisdictions, debt levels were higher and repayment rates slower for the 1995 than the 1990 graduates.

College graduates from the class of 1995 owed less at graduation than university graduates and had faster rates of repayment.

Elementary-Secondary Education

The indicators in Chapter C cover pre-elementary, elementary and secondary education. Topics examined include school readiness of 4- and 5-year-olds, enrolments by age, the ageing of the teaching work force, the use of information technologies and student outcome measures.

In 1998-1999, about 15% of both 4- and 5-year-olds performed relatively poorly on a test of cognitive development that is generally regarded as a good predictor of school readiness. Twice as many boys as girls of those ages had some speech difficulty.

Two-thirds of 4- and 5-year-olds had an adult who read to them every day. The proportion of 4-year-olds who looked at books daily by themselves when at home was higher for girls (79%) than boys (64%). One in three children aged 4 and 5 participated in coached sports activities at least once a week.

At the pan-Canadian level, the number of schools grew 3% during the 1990s, while enrolments grew 6%. Although compulsory education begins at age 6 in most jurisdictions, 95% of 5-year-olds and 43% of 4-year-olds were attending school in 1999-2000. Enrolment at age 16—the last year of compulsory education in most jurisdictions—was above 90% in 1999-2000 in most provinces and territories.

At the pan-Canadian level, the average number of students per educator in public elementary-secondary schools increased from 15.7 in 1990-1991 to 16.9 in 1998-1999 and fell back to 16.3 in 1999-2000.

The number of full-time educators did not vary during the 1990s while the number of educators working part-time grew 52%. Men represent a declining percentage of educators, a trend likely to continue given that female educators are, on average, younger than their male counterparts. Compared to the entire labour force, a much larger proportion of educators are nearing retirement.

The percentage of secondary school principals who reported that the instructional and material resources of their school were adequate was higher in Canada than in most other countries.

In Canada, in 2000, there were, on average, seven students per computer in a school, which was among the best ratios internationally. Compared to other countries, Canada’s schools were among those with the highest proportion of computers connected to the Internet.

More than 85% of Canadian students reported they had frequent access to computers both at school and at home. Across OECD countries, students of both sexes had about the same access to computers at school, but, in most countries including Canada, more males than females actually used them.

In 2000, 15-year-olds in 32 countries were assessed by OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Canada ranked among the top countries in all three areas tested: reading, mathematics and science.

According to another international assessment, the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), Canada was one of the few countries in which performance in both mathematics and sciences improved between 1995 and 1999.

Finally, in a pan-Canadian assessment, the School Achievement Indicators Program (SAIP), about 68% of 13-year-olds and slightly under half of 16-year-olds attained the expected performance level in mathematics for their age. About three-quarters of both 13- and 16-year-old students attained the expected performance level for their age in science.

Canada shows greater equity in reading achievement across socioeconomic groups than many countries.

In reading and science, students performed at lower levels in the Francophone school systems outside Quebec than in the Anglophone systems.

There were no consistent or significant differences in mathematics or science performance between male and female students across the range of assessments in Canada (PISA, TIMSS and SAIP). However, in PISA 2000, females outperformed males in reading in all participating provinces and countries.

The pan-Canadian secondary school graduation rate1 rose from 76% in 1994-1995 to 78% in 1999-2000. However, it remained well below that of Japan (94%), Germany (91%) and France (84%). Graduation rates in Canada remained higher for females (83%) than for males (73%), but the gap narrowed in the latter half of the 1990s.

At the pan-Canadian level, the high school leaver rate2 fell from 18% in 1991 to 12% in 1999. The higher the level of a parent’s education, the more likely a student is to complete high school. Most high school leavers reported that they had at least a “C” grade average in their last year of high school, a fact that suggests that poor academic performance is not the only reason for leaving school. High school leavers were more likely not to work, or to work 30 hours or more in a week, than were graduates. More than one-quarter of female leavers had at least one dependent child.

Postsecondary Education

Chapter D examines several aspects of postsecondary education, including enrolment and graduation in trade-vocational, apprenticeship, college and university programs, adult education and training, human resources, research and development (R&D), and the educational attainment of the working age population.

Between 1988-1989 and 1998-1999, enrolment in trade-vocational programs decreased among both full-and part-time students. In 2000, females represented 9% of the total number of registered apprentices compared to 4% in 1991.

Between 1987-1988 and 1999-2000, full-time enrolment in community colleges increased by 28% and part-time enrolment by 12%.

Between 1988-1989 and 1998-1999, full-time enrolment at Canadian universities increased while part-time enrolment dropped. In 1998-1999, the majority of students in full-time undergraduate studies were women.

Although overall participation rates in adult education and training declined slightly during the 1990s, the number of hours spent on adult education and training increased. People who are employed are more likely to participate in education or training activities than those who are unemployed. Employees are most likely to receive employer-sponsored training if they work for a medium or large firm in a white-collar occupation.

The number of full-time college educators increased by half between 1989-1990 and 1999-2000, from 18,500 to 27,800, while the number of full-time university educators declined from 35,900 to 33,800. The majority of postsecondary educators are men, although the percentage of female educators rose during the 1990s. Postsecondary educators are significantly older as a group than the overall work force.

In 2000, Canada placed 15th among OECD countries in terms of its investment in overall R&D activity. The Government of Canada has set a goal of placing among the top five by 2010.

The university sector is the second largest contributor to R&D at the Canada level (after the business sector), but is the primary contributor in most provinces. Since 1991, expenditures that universities make on R&D have increased, with most of the growth occurring during the latter half of the decade.

Universities are the largest financial supporters of their own research, accounting for 50% of funding from all sources in 2000, followed by the federal government, through sponsorship of university R&D, which accounted for 22%. Internationally, governments’ share of R&D funding for postsecondary education declined between 1991 and 1999.

In Canada, the largest proportion of university R&D occurs in the natural sciences and engineering. However, during the 1990s, university R&D in health sciences grew at the fastest rate.

Graduation rates for bachelor’s degrees3 levelled off at about 30% in the late 1990s. The graduation rate for doctoral students increased from 0.4% in 1991 to 0.6% in 1998. In Canada and across OECD countries, the largest concentration of college and university graduates is in the combined fields of social sciences, business and law.

Graduation rates have increased at a faster rate for women than men at the undergraduate and master’s levels. Close to 60% of all university degrees awarded in 1998 were to women.

In 2001, over half of Canada’s working age population (ages 25 to 64) had postsecondary credentials. In 2000, Canada had the highest proportion of its working-age population with college or university credentials among OECD countries. Women accounted for a little over half of Canada’s working-age university graduates.

The population aged 25 to 34 years in 2001 is the most highly educated ever: 61% of them have credentials beyond the secondary level.

The immigrants of the 1990s are much more highly educated than earlier immigrants: 61% had credentials beyond the secondary level.

The educational attainment of the Aboriginal population has increased substantially between 1996 and 2001.

University graduates tend to concentrate in the four major urban regions in Canada—Montreal and adjacent region, the extended Golden Horseshoe, the Calgary–Edmonton corridor and Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island in British Columbia.

Transitions and Outcomes

Chapter E looks at transitions to postsecondary education and to the labour market, a critical stage in the life cycle, and examines unemployment rates and earnings for different levels of educational attainment in Canada and abroad.

Canadians spent more time in postsecondary education in 2001 than in 1991. A higher proportion of the population aged 20 or over was in school in 2001 than in 1991 at both the college and university levels. About half of the students work, a proportion that has not varied much over the 1990s.

Across OECD countries in 2000, the unemployment rates for both men and women aged 25 to 64 were around three times higher for those without high school graduation than for those with university education. In Canada, unemployment rates are lower and less subject to economic fluctuations for university graduates than for the rest of the labour force.

Higher education is a gateway to higher earnings. According to the 2001 Census, more than 60% of people in the lowest earnings category did not have more than a high school education, while more than 60% of those in the top earnings category had a university degree.

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