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Chapter A: The output of educational institutions and the impact of learning

Educational attainment of the adult population

  • In 2007, a large majority of 25- to 64-year-old Canadians (87%) had attained at least upper secondary education (equivalent to secondary school completion in Canada). The corresponding Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average was 70%.

  • Ninety-one percent of adults aged 25 to 34 had attained at least upper secondary education, compared with 78% for the cohort aged 55 to 64, reflecting change in attainment patterns over time.

  • There were relatively small differences between the provinces in the proportion of persons aged 25 to 34 with a secondary school diploma.

  • The proportion of Canadians who had attained tertiary-type A education or completed advanced research programmes was greater than that for most other OECD member countries. One-quarter (25%) of adults aged 25 to 64 had reached this level of educational attainment. In Canada, tertiary-type A (International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 5A) includes bachelor's degrees, master's degrees and other university degrees or certificates above a bachelor's degree, but below a doctorate degree. Advanced research programmes (ISCED 6) include doctorate degrees and post-doctoral programmes.

  • Canada ranked fourth among OECD countries in the proportion of adults in the 55-to-64 cohort (21%) with tertiary-type A education/advanced research programme attainment. However, for the 25-to-34 cohort, Canada (29%) shared 12th position with Japan and the United Kingdom.

Upper secondary graduation

  • The proportion of new secondary school graduates in 2007, compared with the size of the population of youth at the typical age of graduation (the "upper secondary graduation rate"), varied greatly, from 91% in Quebec to 28% in Nunavut.

  • Upper secondary graduation rates for females were higher than those for males in 23 of the 25 OECD countries for which comparable data were available. In Canada, the rate for females was 83%; the rate for males, 74%.

Tertiary graduation

  • In Canada, the tertiary-type A graduation rate, which includes only individuals graduating at this ISCED 5A level for the first time (i.e., obtaining their first bachelor's degree), compared with the size of the population at the typical age of graduation, was 31% in 2006, lower than the average registered in the 24 OECD countries for which comparable data were available (39%).

  • In Canada, the tertiary-type A graduation rates were 39% for females and 23% for males.

  • The tertiary-type A graduation rate varied greatly from one province to another, with rates ranging from 51% in Nova Scotia to 18% in Saskatchewan. Nova Scotia receives many students from out of province, which accounts for its especially high tertiary-type A graduation rate.

  • The rate of graduation from advanced research programmes (ISCED 6, doctorate degree) was 1.0% in Canada in 2006, which compares with an average rate 1.5% for the OECD countries.

Excellence in student achievement

  • When the average performance of 15-year-old Canadian students was compared with that of their counterparts in other countries, the Canadians performed well in the three domains—science, reading and mathematics—assessed by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2006.

  • Average scores in the science domain show Canada on par with Australia, Japan, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, and behind Finland, which had the top score. In reading and mathematics, Canada's scores positioned it near the top of the OECD countries for which comparable 2006 data were available.

  • The performance of all provinces was very close to or above the OECD average in science, reading, and mathematics.

  • In 2006, Canada had a relatively high percentage of top performers—in science, reading and mathematics. In the science domain, 14% of the 15-year-old Canadian students assessed by PISA were top performers; that is, their scores placed them in proficiency level 5 or 6, the highest levels on the global assessment scales. In mathematics, 18% were top performers (levels 5 or 6); in reading, 15% (level 5).

  • In Canada, 16% of the 15-year-old boys assessed reached at least level 5 in science, as did 13% of the girls. In mathematics, 21% of boys were top performers versus 15% of girls. The situation reverses for reading, however, where the Canada-level figure for girls (18%) was above that for boys (11%). Similar male-female patterns are also observed at the OECD level.

Labour market outcomes

  • In 2007, Canada's employment rate for upper secondary and postsecondary non-tertiary graduates was 77%. By comparison, the rate for tertiary graduates was 83%. For the OECD countries overall, the average figures were 76% and 85%, respectively.

  • In Canada, the employment rate for those who had not completed upper secondary education was 57%.

  • Among the provinces, the employment rate for tertiary graduates varied within a rather narrow range of 8 percentage points (from 78% in Newfoundland and Labrador, to 86% in Manitoba and Saskatchewan). But a difference of more than 30 percentage points may be observed for individuals without upper secondary graduation (from 38% in Newfoundland and Labrador to 71% in Alberta). The higher employment rates for these individuals in some provinces are largely attributable to favourable labour market conditions in 2007.

Economic benefits of education

  • Like their counterparts in all of the other OECD countries, tertiary graduates in Canada earned considerably more than secondary or postsecondary non-tertiary graduates in 2006, with earnings that were, on average, 40% higher.

  • This advantage ranged from 7% in Alberta to more than 55% in Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec. Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia all recorded earnings advantages below the national average of 40%.

  • In Canada, as in the majority of OECD countries, the advantage that tertiary graduation provides in terms of remuneration remained relatively stable between 1998 and 2006.

  • Among the provinces, the advantage provided by tertiary graduation varied greatly from one province to another between 1998 and 2006. A narrowing of the earnings gap by at least 20 percentage points was registered in Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan and Alberta during this period. Substantial increases in the earnings gap were registered in Manitoba, British Columbia, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador. In the other provinces, the advantage remained relatively stable.

Chapter B: Financial and human resources invested in education

Expenditures on education as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP)

  • With 6.2% of its GDP allocated to educational institutions, Canada devoted more than the average of 5.7% registered in the OECD countries. This placed Canada seventh among the OECD countries that allocated a large share of their GDP to education.

  • In Canada, approximately 3.6% of GDP was allocated to primary, secondary and postsecondary non-tertiary education in 2005; 2.6% of GDP was allocated to the tertiary sector.

  • All provinces and territories exceeded the OECD average with regard to the share of the education budget allocated to tertiary education.
    Distribution of expenditures on education

Distribution of expenditures on education

  • In all OECD countries, including Canada, current expenditures account for a substantial proportion of education expenditures, which is related to compensation of staff, particularly teachers. In Canada, 93% of education expenditures for primary, secondary and postsecondary non-tertiary education was allocated to current expenditures; at the tertiary level, 92%. This is comparable with 92% and 90%, respectively, among the OECD countries on average.

  • In Canada, 8.1% of education expenditure at the tertiary level was allocated to capital expenditure in 2005, close to the average for OECD countries (9.7%).

Chapter C:  Access to education, participation and progression

International students

  • In Canada, about 7% of those enrolled in tertiary-type A education and 21% of those enrolled in advanced research programmes were international students. This compares with OECD averages of 7% and 16%, respectively.

  • British Columbia, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia attract proportionally more international students than other provinces to tertiary-type A education, with international students in these provinces accounting for around 10% of all tertiary-type A students.

Transitions to the labour market

  • In 2007, 20% of 15- to 19-year-olds in Canada were no longer pursuing an education, a proportion slightly higher than the average of 16% observed among OECD countries.

  • Although Canada has a relatively higher proportion of 15- to 19-year-olds no longer in education when compared with its OECD counterparts, it appears to be more successful than OECD countries on average in meeting the challenge of integrating young adults with relatively low education into the labour market. In Canada, the employment rate of not-in-school 15- to 19-year-olds was 63% in 2007, compared with an OECD average of 56%.

  • The proportion of 15- to 19-year-olds no longer in education varied from one province to another, from 15% in Newfoundland and Labrador—a situation similar to that of the United States—to 26% in Alberta.

  • In the Western provinces, the association of relatively high employment rates (above 70%) and relatively high proportions of young people not in education (20% to 26%), shows that labour markets with shortages draw young people even with low educational attainment.