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

A1 Educational attainment of the adult population

  • Between 1998 and 2008, the proportion of adults aged 25 to 64 with below upper secondary attainment (the equivalent of less than high school completion) decreased steadily, from 21% to 13%, in Canada. Such declines were mirrored in the provinces, as well as on average for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.

  • In 2008, 92% of Canadian adults aged 25 to 34 had attained at least upper secondary education, compared with 80% for those aged 55 to 64, reflecting change in attainment patterns over time.

  • There were relatively small differences between provinces in the proportion of adults aged 25 to 34 with at least a secondary school diploma; figures ranged from 88% in Manitoba to 93% in New Brunswick, Ontario, and British Columbia.

  • In 2008, one-quarter (24%) of 25- to 64-year-olds in Canada had completed tertiary-type B programs, far greater than the average of 9% reported by the OECD for its 31 member countries. In Canada, tertiary-type B includes non-university certificates or diplomas from community colleges, CEGEPs, or schools of nursing, as well as university certificates below the bachelor’s level.

  • The corresponding international figure for tertiary-type A/advanced research programmes was 21%, which compares with 25% in Canada. In Canada, tertiary-type A refers to bachelor and master’s degrees and other university degrees or certificates above a bachelor’s degree (but below a doctorate), and advanced research programmes comprises doctorates and post-doctoral programmes.

A2 Upper secondary graduation

  • Canada’s upper secondary graduation rate was 77% in 2007. The majority of other OECD member countries also reported graduation rates above 75%, and the OECD average was 80%. The upper secondary graduation rate measures the proportion of secondary school graduates in relation to the size of the population of youth at the typical age of graduation.

  • Upper secondary graduation rates for females were higher than those for males in all provinces and territories, as well as in the vast majority of OECD countries for which comparable data were available. In Canada, the rate for females was 81%; the rate for males, 73%.

A3 Tertiary graduation

  • In 2006, the tertiary-type B (mainly college credentials) graduation rate, which includes only first-time graduates, was 26.4% in Canada. The latest comparable average available from the OECD for its member countries is 9.5%. This wide gap clearly indicates the strength of the tertiary-type B education sector in Canada, one seen in only a few of its fellow OECD countries. (The tertiary graduation rate measures the proportion of tertiary graduates in relation to the size of the population of youth at the typical age of graduation.)

  • Canada’s average graduation rate for tertiary-type A (first-time graduates, bachelor’s degree) was 34.1% (2007), approximately 4 percentage points lower than the most recent average of 38.0% registered by the OECD. This is not actually low, however, when taking into account the entire tertiary sector in Canada, where many postsecondary students choose to pursue tertiary-type B programmes.

  • In Canada, the estimated first time graduation rate for women in tertiary-type B programs (32.2%) was higher than that for men (20.9%)—a rather sizeable gender gap of 11 percentage points. The rates for tertiary-type A (43.2% for women versus 25.3% for men) reveal an even larger gap of 18 percentage points. The comparable OECD gender gaps were 2.3 percentage points for tertiary-type B and 15.5 percentage points for tertiary-type A.

  • With the exception of Prince Edward Island, where the graduation rate for men in tertiary-type B programs was 46.3% (versus 31.8% for women), the rates for women were higher than those for men across the provinces. And the tertiary-type A graduation rates for women were, without exception, above those for men across the country.

A4 Labour market outcomes

  • In Canada and other OECD countries, it is evident that employment prospects increase with educational attainment. In 2008, Canada’s employment rate for adults aged 25 to 64 who had not completed upper secondary education was 58%, while the rate for upper secondary and postsecondary non-tertiary graduates was 77%, and the figure for tertiary graduates, 83%.

  • In most OECD countries, the difference in employment rates between the sexes was less pronounced among graduates of tertiary-type A and advanced research programmes compared with the upper secondary graduates. In Canada, a 12-percentage-point difference was observed between men and women in the upper secondary graduation category. The male-female difference was half as large (6 percentage points) for graduates of tertiary-type A/advanced research programmes.

  • Between 1998 and 2008, the difference in the overall employment rates for tertiary graduates and individuals without upper secondary graduation narrowed slightly in Canada, decreasing from 29 percentage points to 25. In the provinces, these gaps also tended to get smaller over time.

A5 Economic benefits of education

  • The relative earnings of Canadians aged 25 to 64 clearly indicate that mean annual earnings from employment (before tax) rise along with educational attainment. This pattern is also seen in the OECD countries.

  • For 2007, the most notable earnings advantage is seen among those who had graduated from university programs, International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 5A/6 (tertiary-type A or advanced research programmes). These graduates earned considerably more—75% more on average—than high school or trade/vocational programme graduates.

  • Among individuals who had successfully completed a university education, earnings were notably higher in all provinces, ranging from an advantage of 45% in Alberta to 103% in New Brunswick.

  • Women in Canada continue to earn much less than men, regardless of their educational attainment. In 1998, the average annual earnings for women with tertiary education (college or university) were 61% those of men; by 2007, the gender gap had narrowed slightly, yet women’s earnings were still only 63% of men’s.

Chapter B: Financial resources invested in education

B1 Expenditure on education as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP)

  • With 6.1% of its GDP allocated to educational institutions in 2006, Canada devoted more than the 5.7% average registered in the OECD countries. The allocation of financial resources to educational institutions is a collective choice, made by government, business, and individual students and their families. It is also partially driven by the size of the school-age population and enrolment in education, as well as the country’s relative wealth.

  • The financial commitment to educational institutions varied from one province or territory to another. While 4.3% of Alberta’s GDP was invested in educational institutions in 2006, more than double that proportion was invested in Yukon and Nunavut: 9.0% and 13.1%, respectively.

  • In 2006, 43% (2.6% of 6.1%) of the share of the GDP that Canada invested in education was allocated to the tertiary sector. Among the OECD countries, Canada, along with the United States (41%), allocated the largest share of education spending to tertiary education.

B2 Distribution of expenditure on education

  • The proportions of education expenditure allocated to current spending were relatively high in Canada in 2006: 92% for primary and secondary education, and 94% for tertiary. These figures are fairly similar to the average proportions reported by the OECD for its member countries: 92% and 91%, respectively. Current expenditure reflects spending on school resources that are used each year for the operation of schools.

  • For primary and secondary education, the compensation of staff (78%)—particularly teachers (62%)—accounted for the largest proportion of current expenditure in Canada in 2006, a situation mirrored in all other OECD countries. At the tertiary level in Canada, 63% of current expenditure was devoted to compensation of all staff; 37%, to compensation for teaching staff. The proportion of current expenditure allocated to compensation of all staff employed in education was larger for the primary and secondary category than for the tertiary category in all provinces and territories with the exception of Yukon.

  • In Canada, 6.5% of education expenditure for tertiary education was allocated to capital expenditure; the OECD average was 9.3%. For primary and secondary, the corresponding figures for Canada and the OECD were 7.6%. Capital expenditure reflects spending on assets that last longer than one year and includes spending on the construction, renovation and major repair of buildings.

  • With the exception of Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, the proportion allocated to capital expenditure was generally greater for primary and secondary education than for tertiary education.

Chapter C: Access to education, participation and progression

C1 International students

  • In Canada, international students accounted for a higher proportion of enrolment in advanced research programmes (20%) than in tertiary-type A (7%) and tertiary-type B (4%) programmes. International students are those who are not Canadian citizens and who do not hold a permanent residency permit in Canada.

  • The proportions of international students in advanced research programmes were higher than the Canada and OECD averages (20% and 18%, respectively) in seven provinces: Prince Edward Island (46%), Saskatchewan (35%), Newfoundland and Labrador (33%), Manitoba (29%), British Columbia (24%), New Brunswick (24%), and Alberta (21%). Generally, there was less variation across the provinces in the proportion of international students enrolled in tertiary-type A and tertiary-type B programmes.

C2 Transitions to the labour market

  • In 2008, 20% of 15- to 19-year-olds in Canada were no longer pursuing a formal education. This figure is high, given that school attendance is compulsory until at least age 16 in most of Canada and until age 18 in Ontario and New Brunswick.

  • Among OECD countries, an average of 15% of 15- to 19-year-olds were not in education in 2008. This proportion decreased over the decade, from 20% in 1998, while it remained stable in Canada.

  • The proportion of 15- to 19-year-olds no longer in education varied from one province to another, from 14% in New Brunswick to 26% in Alberta. The corresponding estimates for the North were also high, ranging from 25% to 34%.

  • Some provinces seem more successful than others in meeting the challenge of integrating young adults with relatively low educational attainment into the labour force. In the Western provinces, the association of relatively high employment rates (around 70%) and relatively high proportions of young people not in education indicates that labour markets with shortages can draw and employ young people regardless of their educational attainment.

C3 Participation in adult education

  • In Canada in 2008, 42% of adults aged 25 to 64 had participated in formal and/or non-formal education or training for job-related or personal reasons. On average, adults in OECD countries participated in education and training at the same rate (41%) as their Canadian counterparts. Formal education and training consists of structured learning activities that lead to a formal credential, such as recognized degrees, diplomas, certificates or licenses. Non-formal education and training consists of structured learning activities that do not lead to a formal credential.

  • In Canada, adults in the 25-to-34 age group participated in adult education at almost twice the rate (50%) as those aged 55 to 64 (28%). In most provinces, the highest participation rates were also observed for the youngest adults.

  • Participation rates for adults in the 35-to-44 and 45-to-54 age groups, who represent a large part of the labour force, or potential labour force, were somewhat lower than for those aged 25 to 34, yet they remained above 40%.

  • Adult participation in education and training is positively related to educational attainment. This is the case in Canada as a whole, and in each province. In Canada, 18% of adults who had less than secondary school completion as their highest level of attainment had participated in education and training in 2008. This figure increased to 54% for those with a tertiary education.