Statistics Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Notes to readers

Warning View the most recent version.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please "contact us" to request a format other than those available.

Canadian and OECD indicators
ISCED classifications and descriptions
Mapping to ISCED
OECD and EU19 averages
Presentation of OECD countries
Country abbreviations

Canadian and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) indicators

The following table outlines the indicators presented in this first edition of Education Indicators in Canada: An International Perspective alongside the corresponding indicators from Education at a Glance.

Education Indicators in Canada: An International Perspective, 2009 Education at a Glance 2009: OECD Indicators
A1 Educational attainment of the adult population A1 To what level have adults studied?
A2 Upper secondary graduation A2 How many students finish secondary education and access tertiary education?
A3 Tertiary graduation A3 How many students finish tertiary education?
A4 Excellence in student achievement A4 What is the profile of 15-year-old top performers in science in Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2006?
A5 Labour market outcomes A6 How does participation in education affect participation in the labour market?
A6 Economic benefits of education A7 What are the economic benefits of education?
B1 Expenditures on education as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) B2 What proportion of national wealth is spent on education?
B2 Distribution of expenditures on education B6 On what resources and services is education funding spent?
C1 International students C2 Who studies abroad and where?
C2 Transitions to the labour market C3 How successful are students in moving from education to work?

International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) classifications and descriptions

The following table, as outlined in the OECD's publication Highlights from Education at a Glance 2008,1 introduces the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) and provides a brief description for each education category.

ISCED classification (and subcategories) Description
Pre-primary education
The first stage of organized instruction designed to introduce very young children to the school atmosphere.
Minimum entry age of 3.
Primary education
Designed to provide a sound basic education in reading, writing and mathematics and a basic understanding of some other subjects. Entry age: between 5 and 7. Duration: 6 years.
Lower secondary education
ISCED 2 (subcategories: 2A prepares students for continuing academic education, leading to 3A; 2B has stronger vocational focus, leading to 3B; 2C offers preparation for entering workforce)
Completes provision of basic education, usually in a more subject-oriented way with more specialist teachers. Entry follows 6 years of primary education; duration is 3 years. In some countries, the end of this level marks the end of compulsory education.
Upper secondary education
ISCED 3 (subcategories: 3A prepares students for university-level education at level 5A; 3B for entry to vocationally-oriented tertiary education at level 5B; 3C prepares students for workforce or for post-secondary non-tertiary education, ISCED 4)
Even stronger subject specialization than at lower secondary level, with teachers usually more qualified. Students typically expected to have completed 9 years of education or lower secondary schooling before entry and are generally around the age of 15 or 16.
Postsecondary non-tertiary education
ISCED 4 (subcategories: 4A may prepare students for entry to tertiary education, both university-level and vocationally-oriented education; 4B typically prepares students to enter the workforce)
Programmes at this level may be regarded nationally as part of upper secondary or postsecondary education, but in terms of international comparison their status is less clear cut. Programme content may not be much more advanced than in upper secondary, and is certainly lower than at tertiary level. Entry typically requires completion of an upper secondary programme. Duration usually equivalent to between 6 months and 2 years of full-time study.
Tertiary education
ISCED 5 (subcategories 5A and 5B, see below)
ISCED 5 is the first stage of tertiary education (the second-ISCED 6-involves advanced research). At level 5, it is oftenmore useful to distinguish between two subcategories: 5A,which represents longer and more theoretical programmes;and 5B, where programmes are shorter and more practicallyoriented. Note, though, that as tertiary education differsgreatly between countries, the demarcation between thesetwo subcategories is not always clear cut.
Tertiary-type A
"Long-stream" programmes that are theory-based and aimed at preparing students for further research or to give accessto highly skilled professions, such as medicine or architecture. Entry preceded by 13 years of education, students typicallyrequired to have completed upper secondary or postsecondary non-tertiary education. Duration equivalent to at least3 years of full-time study, but 4 is more usual.
Tertiary-type B
"Short-stream" programmes that are more practically oriented or focus on the skills needed for students to directly enterspecific occupations. Entry preceded by 13 years of education; students may require mastery of specific subjects studied atlevels 3B or 4A. Duration equivalent to at least 2 yearsof full-time study, but 3 is more usual.
Advanced research programmes
The second stage of tertiary education. Programmes are devoted to advanced study and original research.

Mapping to ISCED

The report uses the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED-97) to classify the highest level of education successfully completed (educational attainment) and levels of schooling (attendance or enrolment). To facilitate understanding for those who are less familiar with this classification, the following tables show the correspondence between ISCED and the more familiar terminology in Canada, according to the data source(s) used for the various indicators.

Labour Force Survey (LFS)

ISCED LFS (educational attainment)
  • Grade 8 or lower (Quebec: Secondary II or lower)
  • Grade 9 to 10 (Quebec: Secondary III or IV, Newfoundland and Labrador: 1st year of secondary)
  • Grade 11 to 13 (Quebec: Secondary V, Newfoundland and Labrador: 2nd to 4th year of secondary) (non-graduate)
  • Grade 11 to 13 (Quebec: Secondary V, Newfoundland and Labrador: 2nd to 4th year of secondary) (graduate)
  • Some postsecondary education (non-graduate)
  • Trade certificate or diploma from a vocational school or apprenticeship training
  • Non-university certificate or diploma from a community college, CEGEP, school of nursing, etc.
  • University certificate below bachelor's level
  • Bachelor's degree
  • University degree or certificate above bachelor's degree

Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID)

ISCED SLID (educational attainment)
  • Never attended school
  • 1 to 4 years elementary school
  • 5 to 8 years elementary school
  • 9 to 10 years elementary and secondary school
  • More than 10 years of elementary and secondary school (but did not graduate)
  • Graduated from high school
  • Some non-university postsecondary (no certificate)
  • Some university (no certificate)
  • Certificates or diplomas from a business or commercial school
  • Certificates or diplomas from a trade or vocational school
  • Certificates or diplomas from a CEGEP
  • Certificates or diplomas from a community college or institute of applied arts and technology
  • University certificate below Bachelor's
  • Bachelor's degree
  • University certificate above Bachelor's but below Master's
  • Master's
  • Degree in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, optometry or first professional degree in law
  • Doctorate (PhD)

Postsecondary Student Information System (PSIS)

ISCED PSIS (enrolment and graduation)
  • Collaborative degree program (combined college and university postsecondary program but not University transfer)
  • Applied degree
  • Bachelor's degree
  • First professional degree (only for: law, divinity (Mdiv), medicine, dentistry, optometry,veterinary medicine, and BEd requiring a Bachelor's degree for admission)
  • Licence undergraduate
  • Licentiate or testamur
  • Master's qualifying year
  • Master's degree
  • University graduate level certificate or diploma
  • PhD qualifying year or probationary
  • Internship (post-MD)
  • Residency (medical, dental, veterinary)
  • PhD
  • Equivalent earned doctorate
  • Post-doctoral program

OECD and European Union (EU)19 averages

The OECD average

As stated in the OECD's Education at a Glance2:

The OECD average is calculated as the unweighted mean of the data values of all OECD countries for which data are available or can be estimated. The OECD average therefore refers to an average of data values at the level of the national systems and can be used to answer the question of how an indicator value for a given country compares with the value for a typical or average country. It does not take into account the absolute size of the education system in each country.

The OECD total is calculated as a weighted mean of the data values of all OECD countries for which data are available or can be estimated. It reflects the value for a given indicator when the OECD area is considered as a whole. This approach is taken for the purpose of comparing, for example, expenditure charts for individual countries with those of the entire OECD area for which valid data are available, with this area considered as a single entity.

Note that both the OECD average and the OECD total can be significantly affected by missing data. Given the relatively small number of countries, no statistical methods are used to compensate for this. In cases where a category is not applicable in a country or where the data value is negligible for the corresponding calculation, the value zero is imputed for the purpose of calculating OECD averages. In cases where both the numerator and the denominator of a ratio are not applicable for a certain country, this country is not included in the OECD average.

The EU 19 average

The EU19 average is calculated as the unweighted mean of the data values of the 19 OECD countries that are members of the European Union for which data are available or can be estimated: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Presentation of OECD countries

The tables present all of the OECD member countries; partners, although presented in Education at a Glance, are excluded. Selected OECD countries are presented in the charts, and the countries selected vary depending on data availability. The countries were chosen because they appear relevant for a particular comparison.

Country abbreviations

The following international codes are used to identify OECD member countries in certain charts in this report. Country names are used in the tables and text.

OECD countries presented in charts
Country International code
Australia AUS
Canada Can.
Finland FIN
France FRA
Germany DEU
Italy ITA
Japan JPN
Mexico MEX
Sweden SWE
Switzerland CHE
United Kingdom UKM
United States USA


Indicators combine discrete education statistics and give them context. This report presents a selection of indicators that places Canada and the provinces/territories in an international perspective; however, it is only a partial picture of the performance of Canada, the provinces and territories. Although indicators show trends and uncover interesting questions, they cannot by themselves provide explanations or permit conclusions to be drawn. Additional research will always be required to determine the causes of problems and suggest solutions. The aim of this report is to stimulate thinking and promote debate on global education issues.

Although the data for Canada presented in this report are, for the most part, identical to those presented by the OECD in this year's Education at a Glance (EAG), there are some instances where figures may differ slightly. This is not due to differences in methodologies or in data years, but it does reflect revisions to initial figures that were provided at earlier stages through the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)/OECD/Eurostat data collection (UOE) required for the EAG.

The OECD and other international organizations provide detailed guidelines and definitions to assist countries in filling out the complex data collection templates in order to achieve the highest possible level of comparability. However, the countries must best apply these guidelines to their own data. Depending on the degree to which national concepts match these guidelines and to which national classifications of education map adequately to ISCED, the comparability may be affected. The international data presented in this report reflect the figures available at the time of writing; however, the OECD may have made further adjustments that will not be reflected here. For more detailed information on the latest international statistics, please refer to the OECD's Web site for the EAG:


  1. See Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2008. Highlights from Education at a Glance 2008, Readers' Guide. More detailed definitions and explanations of the ISCED standard are available at:
  2. See Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2009. Education at a Glance 2009: OECD Indicators, Readers' Guide, available at: