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Chapter A: A portrait of the school-age population
Chapter B: Financing education systems
Chapter C: Elementary-secondary education
Chapter D: Postsecondary education
Chapter E: Transitions and outcomes

Chapter A: A portrait of the school-age population

Population size

  • The population aged 5 to 14 years is projected to decrease by less than half a million between 2001 and 2011, to about 3.7 million.
  • The population aged 15 to 19 years is projected to peak at 2.2 million in 2011. It is expected to drop between 2011 and 2021.
  • The 20- to 24-year-old population is expected to peak at about 2.3 million in 2016 and to decrease until 2026, when it is expected to stabilize at 2.1 million.
  • The population aged 25 to 29 is projected to increase in size until 2021, but is not expected to regain 1991 levels.
  • Due to the recent trend in fertility rates, most jurisdictions could experience a period of decline in their preschool, elementary, secondary and postsecondary age populations.
  • The Aboriginal identity population aged 0 to 29 is projected to increase steadily over the next 10 years. The only Aboriginal population group that is projected to decrease by 2016 is the Métis, both in the 5-to-14 and the 15-to-19 age groups.

Cultural diversity

  • Diversity among the school-age population (aged 5 to 24 years) generally increased between 1991 and 2001.
  • In Toronto and Vancouver, over 25% of the school-age population in 2001 were immigrants, and approximately 20% had a home language other than English or French.
  • The proportion of the school-age population with Aboriginal identity is significant and growing in Canada’s census metropolitan areas (CMAs) and in areas outside the CMAs in certain provinces and territories. In 2001, they represented 2% of the school-age population living in CMAs and 9% of the school-age population living outside metropolitan areas.

Low income

  • In 2004, 7% of all children living with two parents were in low-income situations. Among children living in lone-parent families, the proportion was 26%.
  • For those children living with one parent in 1999, just under half experienced a spell of low income at some time between 1999 and 2004, with 32% having low income for more than one year.

Family background

  • The proportion of 5- to 14-year-olds who were living with married parents fell from 78% in 1991 to 69% in 2001. Among teenagers aged 15 to 19, the corresponding proportions were 71% and 68%. The proportions of 5- to 19-year-olds raised by parents in common-law situations doubled between 1991 and 2001. In 2001, 19% of 5-to-19-year-old children lived with a lone parent.
  • By 2001, more young adults were living at home with their parents. According to 2001 Census data, 57% of 20- to 24-year-olds lived with their parents, a noticeable rise compared with 50% a decade earlier.
  • More parents were working full-time in 2001 compared with 10 years earlier. The proportion of children aged 5 to 14 living in two-parent families where both parents were working full-time rose from 45% to 49%.
  • Between 1996 and 2001, the census years that offer comparable Aboriginal identity data, the proportion of 5- to 14-year-old Aboriginal children living with both parents (married or common-law) remained fairly constant at 60%. The proportion of Aboriginal children aged 5 to 14 living with a lone parent increased from 29% to 35%, while the proportion of those not living with their parents decreased from 10% to 5%.
  • Between 1996 and 2001, the proportion of Aboriginal people aged 15 to 19 who were lone parents themselves increased from 2% to 4%.
  • Between 1996 and 2001, the proportion of Aboriginal children aged 5 to 14 living in two-parent families where both parents worked full-time increased from 35% to 41%.

Chapter B: Financing education systems

Total expenditure on education

  • Between 1997/1998 and 2002/2003, total education expenditure in Canada rose 12% in 2001 constant dollars to $72.3 billion, with 67% of the overall increase occurring at the postsecondary level.
  • Average Canadian per capita expenditure increased 7% to $2,305 between 1997/1998 and 2002/2003.
  • In Canada, total public and private expenditure on education increased 14% while GDP rose 17%, resulting in total education spending dropping from 6.6% of GDP in 1999/2000 to 6.4% in 2002/2003.

Public and private expenditure on education

  • In the 2005/2006 fiscal year, governments spent $75.7 billion (in 2001 constant dollars) on all levels of education, which represented 16.1% of total public expenditures. Spending on health that year accounted for 19.9% of public expenditures.
  • Between 1997/1998 and 2002/2003, combined federal, provincial/territorial and municipal government expenditure (in constant dollars) in Canada grew by 10% at the postsecondary level; expenditure at the elementary-secondary level increased by 5%.
  • In 2002/2003, $3.6 billion in private expenditures was spent at the elementary-secondary level and $9.2 billion at the postsecondary level.
  • In 2004, 43% of Canadian households incurred educational expenses for such items as textbooks, school supplies and tuition costs, spending an average of $2,484.
  • In 2005/2006, university tuition fees ranged from $2,948 in education to $11,724 in dentistry. Undergraduate university tuition cost an average of $3,788. At the Canada level, the share of total university revenues accounted for by student fees and other non-government revenues decreased slightly from 47% in 1999/2000 to 46% in 2004/2005.
  • In 2004/2005, Canadian universities’ expenditures totaled $21 billion, with capital and operating expenditures respectively accounting for 10% and 90% of the total. Sixty-one per cent of operating expenses were devoted to compensation for academic and other staff.

Student debt

  • The 2000 university graduates who borrowed from government student loan programs owed an average of $16,200 at graduation, 25% more than 1995 university graduates. Similarly, the 2000 college graduates owed an average of $11,700, 20% more than 1995 college graduates.
  • Almost one-quarter of 2000 graduates who did not pursue any further postsecondary education program still owed debt to government student loan programs five years after graduation.

Chapter C:  Elementary-secondary education

Early years and school readiness

  • Canadian parents reported in 2004/2005 that the physical health of their 4- and 5-year-old children was generally very good.
  • In 2004/2005, 18% of 4- and 5-year-old boys had received a diagnosis of asthma at some point in their lives, along with 9% of 4- and 5-year-old girls.
  • Approximately 60% of 4- and 5-year-olds had an adult who read to them every day.
  • More 4- and 5-year-old girls than boys looked at books or tried to read on their own daily (75% vs. 67% among the 5-year-olds).
  • In 2004/2005, the vast majority of 4- and 5-year-olds had normal or advanced receptive language skills (83% to 89% depending on gender and age).

Elementary-secondary school enrolments and educators

  • Between the 1997/1998 and 2004/2005 school years, enrolments in public elementary and secondary schools rose in only two provinces, Ontario and Alberta.
  • There were approximately 310,000 educators country-wide in 2004/2005.The number of female educators far exceeded the number of male educators in all age groups. Most full-time educators, whether male or female, were in the 30-to-59 age range. The proportions of full-time educators in the oldest age group were very low, with few working after the age of 60.
  • Between 1997/1998 and 2004/2005, the number of students per educator declined. The student-educator ratio in public elementary-secondary schools fell from 16.6 to 15.9 at the Canada level.

Secondary school graduation

  • The pan-Canadian high school graduation rate in 2002/2003 was 74%.
  • In Canada as a whole, in 2002/2003, graduation rates were higher for females (78%) than for males (70%). The situation was the same in 1997/1998.

Student achievement

  • In terms of mathematics literacy, Canada’s performance on OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) was strong, with only Hong Kong-China and Finland, performing significantly better than Canada.
  • Across Canada, 71% of 13-year-olds and 64% of 16-year-olds reached the expected levels on the 2004 science assessment of the School Achievement Indicators Program (SAIP).
  • In the SAIP writing assessment, in 2002, 84% of 13-year-olds and 61% of 16-year-olds reached the expected levels.
  • In the SAIP mathematics assessment, in 2001, 64% of 13-year-olds and 50% of 16-year-olds reached the expected levels in mathematics content.

Information and communications technologies (ICT)

  • In 2003, the average number of students per school computer in OECD countries was 15. Canada’s average of six students per every school computer is among the most favourable.
  • In Canada, 89% of 15-year-olds in 2003 had a home Internet connection, ranking second after Sweden (90%).
  • Overall, about 90% of students in Canada reported frequent computer use at home in 2003, about double that claiming frequent use of school computers (4 in 10).
  • Although at least 95% of Canadian 15-year-old students had access to computers, either at home or at school, over one-quarter (28%) said they “never” used computers for learning their school material.

Chapter D: Postsecondary education

Enrolment in postsecondary education

  • In 2004, there were 267,800 registered apprentices in Canada, 64% more than in 1994.
  • In the 2004/2005 academic year, the total number of full-time students enrolled in public colleges and institutes in all jurisdictions was about 514,000.
  • Between 1994/1995 and 2004/2005,undergraduate enrolment at Canadian universities increased 19%, rising from 658,300 students to 785,700, with most of this growth occurring since the latter part of the 1990s. In 2004/2005, there were 148,700 graduate students in Canada. This represents an increase of 32% over the decade, a faster rate of growth than at the total undergraduate level. Most of this increase has occurred since the latter part of the 1990s.
  • Full-time students are the drivers behind this growth as their numbers have grown 28% since 1999 to a record 631,900 students in 2004/2005. In contrast, part-time enrolment at the undergraduate level decreased 11% to 155, 300 students between 1994/1995 and 1999/2000, and since then has remained at this lower level.
  • Women have constituted the majority in full-time undergraduate studies for some time, and now their enrolment at the total graduate level is equal to that of men. Since 1994/1995, men’s share of full-time undergraduate enrolment has decreased from 46% to 42%. Men’s share of graduate enrolment dropped from 56% to 51% over the same period.

Postsecondary completions and graduation rates

  • The apprenticeship branches of provincial and territorial governments reported 19,700 individuals completing registered apprenticeship programs in 2004, up 17% from 1994. The number of completers increased in all major trade groups, with the “other trades” group, metal fabricating, and industrial and related mechanical trades showing the highest growth rates over the decade.
  • In 2004/2005, there were 173,000 graduates from public colleges and institutes in Canada.
  • In 2004, there were about 31,000 more graduates from Canadian universities than in 1994, with women accounting for three-quarters of this increase. In 2004, women accounted for 60% of graduates compared with 57% 10 years earlier.
  • The physical, natural and applied sciences accounted for 23% of university graduates in 2004.

University educators

  • Between 1994/1995 and 2004/2005, the total number of full-time university educators rose by 6%. This global increase masked diverging evolution among the ranks of faculty: the number of full and associate professors employed in Canadian universities actually fell 6% and 5%, respectively, while the number of educators in the “other ranks,” which captures entry-level assistant professors, lecturers and instructors, jumped 41%. By 2004/2005, these educators accounted for 32% of the total full-time teaching faculty, up from 24% in 1994/1995.
  • Since 1999, the age profile of university educators in Canada has become both younger and older. In 2004/2005, 19% of educators were 30 to 39 years of age, up from 16% in 1999/2000. Over this same period, the proportion of faculty who were 50 to 59 years of age dropped from 39% to 33% and the proportion aged 60 and over increased from 12% to 16%.
  • Women accounted for 32% of all full-time university educators by 2004/2005, up from 23% a decade earlier.
  • Between 1994/1995 and 2004/2005, average salaries of full-time university faculty increased 4% (in 2001 constant dollars) to about $87,000.

Research and development

  • In 2004, Canada conducted $24.2 billion worth of R&D (in real 2001 dollars). This represents 2.0% of the gross domestic product (GDP). Between 2000 and 2004, expenditure on R&D grew by 16%, a rate just high enough to keep the ratio of the GDP constant.
  • Canada’s R&D performance appears below the OECD countries’ average at 2.3%. Canada slipped one place from 11th in 2002 to 12th in 2004 among OECD countries.
  • In 2004, universities accounted for slightly more than one-third of all R&D in Canada, second to the business sector which accounted for more than half of all R&D.
  • In 1991, universities across Canada contributed $3.8 billion (in real 2001 dollars) worth of R&D. By 2004, R&D in the university sector more than doubled to $8.4 billion.


  • Just over half (52%) of the population aged 16 and over in 2003 had levels of prose literacy proficiency at Level 3 or above (as measured in IALSS 2003), while 48% performed at Levels 1 or 2 on the prose literacy scale. These individuals are likely to face real challenges in coping with the emerging skill demands of a knowledge-based economy.
  • The proportion of adults at each level of the prose literacy scale did not differ noticeably between the urban and the rural populations.
  • Prose literacy proficiency tends to be lower after age 35. After the age of 55, more than half of the population had a proficiency level below Level 3 on the prose literacy scale—the level considered as the desired threshold for coping in a knowledge-based society. Among the population aged 66 and over, more than half (52%) had a score at Level 1.
  • At the pan-Canadian level, 78% of the population aged 16 and over with a university degree achieved Level 3 or above for prose proficiency, compared with 22% of those without a high school diploma. Approximately one-third of the population aged 16 and over with a university degree (35%) is at the highest levels of prose proficiency, compared with 4% of the population without a high school diploma.
  • Individuals who have document literacy scores at the lowest level of proficiency have a much lower employment rate than do those at higher levels of proficiency. For instance, 57% of individuals who scored at Level 1 of the document proficiency scale are employed, compared with 81% of those who scored at Levels 4/5.

Educational attainment of the population aged 25 to 64

  • In terms of the percentage of the population with a university degree, Canada ranked sixth overall, according to the OECD.
  • In 2001, the proportion of Aboriginal people with less than high school education was 39%, down substantially from 45% five years earlier. Between 1996 and 2001, the proportion of Aboriginal people with a high school diploma increased from 21% to 23%, while the share of those with postsecondary qualifications at the trade, college, or university level increased from 33% to 38%.
  • In 2001, 8% of Aboriginal people aged 25 to 64 had a university education, compared with 23% in the non-Aboriginal population.
  • The proportion of Aboriginal people with postsecondary credentials was noticeably higher among the younger cohorts, as compared with Aboriginal people aged 55 to 64. Similar trends were observed in the North American Indian, Métis and Inuit populations.
  • In 2001, Aboriginal men were more likely than Aboriginal women to have trade qualifications (20% versus 12%, respectively). On the other hand, Aboriginal women were considerably more likely than Aboriginal men to have college diplomas (18% versus 11%) or university degrees (9% versus 6%).

Chapter E: Transitions and outcomes

Transitions to postsecondary education

  • Among the cohort of youth who were 19-years-old in 2003, roughly 10% of males were classified as high-school dropouts, compared with 6% of females the same age.
  • At the Canada level in 2003, approximately 15% of 22- to 24-year-olds were high school graduates who had never attempted a postsecondary program. A relatively higher proportion of males (18%) than females (12%) fell into this category.
  • Among the 22- to 24-year-olds who were in Cycle 3 of the Youth in Transition Survey (YITS) in 2004, some had reported that they were high school dropouts in 1999, when they were 18- to 20-years-old. Of these, 38% had returned to school and had either obtained a high school diploma or had participated in a postsecondary program.

Transitions to the labour market

  • In 2005/2006, just over half of all students aged 17 to 29 were working while they attended school. At every age in this range, the percentage of students with jobs was higher in 2005/2006 than in 1995/1996.
  • Compared with the 1995 graduating class, 2000 graduates from both college and university had higher rates of full-time employment two years after graduation Among university graduates, 74% of the 2000 class worked full-time two years after graduation, compared with 69% of the 1995 class.
  • The highest proportions of full-time employed university graduates were from business, management and public administration, as well as personal, protective and transportation services.
  • While median earnings generally rose slightly for university graduates between 1995 and 2000, college graduates’ earnings remained steady at $28,000 two years after graduation and declined five years after graduation (from $35,000 for the 1995 graduate cohort to $33,000 for the 2000 graduate cohort).

Labour market outcomes

  • By 2006, the unemployment rate had fallen to 12% for those with less than high school and 4% for university graduates from recent higher levels of 14% and 5%, respectively, in 2002.

  • In 2000, more than 60% of earners in the lowest annual earnings category (less than $20,000) had no more than a high school education. However, more than 60% of earners in the top category ($100,000 or more) had a university degree.

  • In the 50-to-54 age group, university-educated workers earned an average of $61,000, more than twice the earnings of workers the same age with less than high school ($29,000).