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Summary Public School Indicators for the Provinces and Territories, 1998-1999 to 2004-2005

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By Patric Blouin and Marie-Josée Courchesne

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Summary of key findings

Student-educator ratio
Total expenditures per student
Average remuneration of educators


Enrolment in Canadian public elementary and secondary schools has dropped slightly since 1998/1999.  Just under 5.3 million children were enrolled in public schools in the academic year 2004/2005, a decrease of 1.9% from 1998/1999.

Alberta and Ontario were the only provinces that bucked this overall trend of declining enrolments, recording an increase between 1998/1999 and 2004/2005.  There were a total of 551,000 enrolments in Alberta in 2004/2005, up 1.4% from 1998/1999.  In Ontario, there were 2.1 million enrolments in 2004/2005, up 0.6% from 1998/1999.

All other provinces and territories have reported a drop in elementary/secondary school enrolment.  The largest decline in student enrolment occurred in Newfoundland and Labrador where the number of students has fallen 18.5% since 1998/1999 (PDF version: Chart 1 and Table 1).  This is consistent with population estimates data which show that the school-age population in Newfoundland and Labrador also declined nearly 18.5% over this time period (PDF version: Table 27).

This decrease is due in large part to continued migration to other parts of Canada.  The number of students declined in all other provinces and territories, ranging from a drop of 10.5% in the Yukon to 1.4% in Quebec.  The decline in enrolments across the country can be attributed to an aging population, as the children of the baby boomers are now starting their post-secondary education, contributing to the increased post-secondary enrolment which has been observed in recent years.

There were slightly more males than females enrolled in Canadian public schools in 2004/2005, with 51.4% of enrolments consisting of males.  This ratio was generally constant over the 1998/1999 to 2004/2005 time period, across all provinces and territories in Canada, and is also consistent with population estimates of the school-age population.


Just under 340,000 people graduated from public secondary schools in the academic year 2004/2005, up 3.7% from 1999/2000.  This increase was primarily driven by the elimination of Grade 13 (OAC) in Ontario.  When excluding the graduates from the Ontario double cohort, the overall number of graduates in Canada has remained virtually flat over the 1999/2000 to 2004/2005 period (0.8%).  However, variations in the number of graduates were observed over this period in several provinces and territories.

Compared to 2000/2001, the number of graduates shot up 7.9% in Ontario in 2001/2002, one year before the double cohort occurred.  This early increase could be a result of students that were on the verge of graduating deciding to take extra credits to graduate early, in order to start their post-secondary education before the anticipated rush brought on by the elimination of Grade 13 the following year.  In 2002/2003, the year the double cohort occurred, the number of graduates spiked 23.9% compared to 2000/2001.  In 2004/2005, two years after the occurrence of the double cohort, the number of graduates was still above the norm, with the number of graduates up 8.0% over 2000/2001.  This may be due to some students deciding to stay longer in school to avoid the rush and to increase their marks to better compete when entering at the post secondary level.

A total of 31,800 people graduated in Alberta in 2004/2005, up 12.2% from 1999/2000.  Notable increases in the number of graduates also occurred in the Northwest Territories (31.1%), the Yukon (30.2%), Nunavut (29.1%) and Nova Scotia (4.5%), from 1999/2000 to 2004/2005.

In contrast, the largest declines in the number of graduates over the 1999/2000 to 2004/2005 period occurred in Newfoundland and Labrador (19.2%), New Brunswick (8.0%) and in Prince Edward Island (5.7%) (PDF version: Chart 2 and Table 7).  The decline in Newfoundland and Labrador was consistent with a drop in school enrolment, the result of out-migration to other provinces or territories (PDF version: Chart 1 and Table 1).  A portion of this decline is likely due to the introduction of provincial examinations in 2000/2001.


There were slightly under 310,000 educators1 in Canadian public schools in 2004/2005, an increase of 1.3% from seven years earlier. Compared with 1998/1999, a total of eight jurisdictions had an increase in educators since 1998/1999 versus five that had a decrease. This figure fluctuated widely during this 7 year period (PDF version: Table 9).

Between 1998/1999 and 2004/2005, the number of educators based on full-time equivalents varied by less than 7% in all jurisdictions, except four – Alberta, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Newfoundland and Labrador (PDF version: Chart 3 and Table 9).  The number of educators increased by 12.3% in Alberta, by 16.7% in the Northwest Territories (since 1999/2000), by 16.2% in Nunavut and fell by 12.8% in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Newfoundland and Labrador is the only jurisdiction where the number of educators has decreased each year since 1998/1999. In Prince Edward Island, the number of educators has been increasing since 1998/1999. The numbers of educators in British Columbia have been declining since 2001/2002 (PDF version: Table 9).

Between 2003/2004 and 2004/2005, the number of educators, based on full-time equivalents, varied by 1% or less in seven jurisdictions. A slightly more significant variation was observed in six jurisdictions; Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Yukon and Nunavut. The number of educators decreased by 4.1% in Newfoundland and Labrador and by 1.2% in Saskatchewan, increased by 1.6% in Ontario, 6.3% in Alberta, 3.6% in the Yukon and 17.8% in Nunavut (PDF version: Chart 4, Table 9).

Student-educator ratio

Between 1998/1999 and 2004/2005, the number of educators increased more than enrolments – or decreased less – in every jurisdiction, except for British Columbia.

The national student-educator ratio has declined each year over the last seven, decreasing 3.8% since 1998/1999. Only British Columbia increased their student-educator ratio by 1.8% (PDF version: Table 10).

As a result, the student-educator ratio declined everywhere, except in British Columbia (PDF version: Table 10). A decline in the student-educator ratio means fewer students per educator.

The student-educator ratio must not be confused with class size.  The former is much smaller because it accounts for the personnel outside the class (principals, counsellors or specialists) and teachers’ time outside the classroom (for preparation and marking).

At the national level, in 2004/2005, there were 16 students for each educator. This ratio was higher than 16 for the provinces and territories of Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and Nunavut.

The ratio was less than 15 students for each educator in Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Manitoba and the Yukon (PDF version: Chart 5 and Table 10).


Total spending increased at a faster rate than inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index.

The total expenditures of public elementary and secondary schools in Canada rose by 24.6% in the past seven years, from $35.7 billion in 1998/1999 to $44.5 billion in 2004/2005 (PDF version: Table 15). In comparison, inflation went up 15% during the same time frame (PDF version: Table 32).

Nationwide in 2004/2005, operational expenses represented 90% of total expenditures, compared to 7% for annual capital expenditures. The other expenditures are mainly from interest on debt services (PDF version: Chart 6 and Tables 13, 14 and 15).

Operational expenses

In 1998/1999, operational expenses in the nation were $32.1 billion (Table 13). Six years later, they reached $40.2 billion, a 25% increase, compared to an inflation rate of 15% for the same period. It should be noted that more than half of operational expenses are directly linked to educators’ salary expenses (PDF version: Table 12).

From 1998/1999 to 2004/2005, the operational expenses of the provinces of Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta continued to grow.

Alberta had the highest increase in operational expenses between 1998/1999 and 2004/2005 at more than 45%, compared to Newfoundland and Labrador, whose increase was less than 14%.

Annual capital expenditures

Nationwide in 1998/1999, annual capital expenditures amounted to $2.5 billion, compared to $3.1 billion in 2004/2005, an increase of 23% (PDF version: Table 14).

In 2000/2001, annual capital expenditures reached a high, with investments of $3.1 billion, a 26% increase over 1998/1999. It should be noted that annual capital expenditures can vary upward or downward, depending on the types of investments made, as demonstrated by Nova Scotia (404%) in 2000/2001 and Saskatchewan (380%) in 2002/2003.

However, annual capital expenditures represented between 7% and 8% of total expenditures nationally, over the seven fiscal years examined by the study.

Total expenditures per student

Nationally in 1998/1999, total expenditures per student in public elementary and secondary schools amounted to $7,077, in current dollars. Six years later, they reached $9,040, representing an increase of 28% (PDF version: Table 16a). In comparison, inflation went up 15% during the same time frame.

In 2004/2005, spending per student was close to $16,000 in the Yukon and more than $13,000 in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut (in current dollars). In the provinces, spending per student amounted to a maximum of more than $9,200 in Manitoba, Alberta and Ontario, and a minimum of $7,600 in Prince Edward Island (PDF version: Chart 7 and Table 16a).

From 1998/1999 to 2004/2005, in the majority of the provinces and territories, the total expenditures per student (in current dollars) rose more than twice as quickly as inflation. Ontario and British Columbia had the smallest differences between the total expenditures per student and inflation, at only 8% and 5% respectively (PDF version: Tables 16a and 32).

Average remuneration of educators

Between 1998/1999 and 2004/2005, average remuneration of educators (in current dollars) rose in all provinces and territories in Canada, except in British Columbia (-0.8%) and in the Yukon (-0.8%) in 1998/1999, Newfoundland and Labrador (-3.9%), Prince Edward Island (-5.9%) and British Columbia (-2.1%) in 1999/2000, New Brunswick (-0.8%) and in the Yukon (-1.7%) in 2000/2001 and in the Yukon (-1.4%) and Nunavut (-8.7%) in 2004/2005 (Table 11).

In 2004/2005, Quebec had the smallest gap between the average remuneration per full-time educators and full-year, full-time workers. The average remuneration for Quebec educators was $55,207, compared to $43,300 for full-year, full-time workers, a difference of $11,907.  Prince Edward Island was the jurisdiction with the largest gap between the average remuneration per full-time educator ($58,412) and full-year, full-time workers ($32,500).  In all the other provinces, the average remuneration of educators exceeded the income of full-year, full-time workers by more than $16,600 (PDF version: Chart 8 and Tables 11 and 30).

In 2004/2005, in Ontario and Alberta, educators earned around $70,000 on average, (in current dollars) and they were responsible for 17 students. In contrast, in Quebec, educators earned $55,000 and were responsible for 14 students (PDF version: Chart 8 and Tables 10 and 11).

In 2004/2005, educators in the three Territories earned the highest average remuneration, with Nunavut topping out at close to $107,000.  Educators in Nunavut were responsible for 16 students (PDF version: Chart 8 and Tables 10 and 11).


  1. The term “educator” refers not only to teachers, but to all employees in the public school system who are required to have teaching certification as a condition of their employment.  This definition generally includes principals, vice-principals and professional non-teaching staff such as education consultants, guidance counsellors and religious and pastoral counsellors.

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