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Canadian and OECD indicators
ISCED classifications and descriptions
Mapping to ISCED
OECD averages
OECD member countries

Canadian and OECD indicators

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

Table 1 Outline of indicators in Education Indicators in Canada and Education at a Glance
Education Indicators in Canada: An International Perspective, 2012 Education at a Glance 2012: OECD Indicators
A1 Educational attainment of the adult population A1 To what level have adults studied?
A2 Upper secondary graduation A2 How many students are expected to finish secondary education?
A3 Labour market outcome A7 How does educational attainment affect participation in the labour market?
B1 Expenditure per student B1 How much is spent per student?
B2 Expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP B2 What proportion of national wealth is spent on education?
B3 Distribution of expenditure on education B6 On what resources and services is education funding spent?
C1 International students C4 Who studies abroad and where?
C2 Transitions to the labour market C5 Transition from school to work: Where are the 15-29 year-olds?
D1 Instruction time D1 How much time do students spend in the classroom?
D2 Teachers' salaries D3 How much are teachers paid?
D3 Teachers' working time D4 How much time do teachers spend teaching?

ISCED classifications and descriptions

The following table, as outlined in the OECD's publication Highlights from Education at a Glance 2011,Note 1 introduces the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) and provides a brief description for each category.

Table 2 International education categories and descriptions
ISCED classification (and subcategories) Description
Pre-primary education
The first stage of organised 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 specialisation 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.
Post-secondary 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 post-secondary 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 often more useful to distinguish between two subcategories: 5A, which represents longer and more theoretical programmes; and 5B, where programmes are shorter and more practically oriented. Note, though, that as tertiary education differs greatly between countries, the demarcation between these two subcategories is not always clear cut.
Tertiary-type A, university-level education
"Long-stream" programmes that are theory based and aimed at preparing students for further research or to give access to highly skilled professions, such as medicine or architecture. Entry preceded by 13 years of education, students typically required to have completed upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education. Duration equivalent to at least 3 years of full-time study, but 4 is more usual.
Tertiary-type B, vocationally oriented tertiary education
"Short-stream" programmes that are more practically oriented or focus on the skills needed for students to directly enter specific occupations. Entry preceded by 13 years of education; students may require mastery of specific subjects studied at levels 3B or 4A. Duration equivalent to at least 2 years of 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 (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.

Table 3 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

Note: The following indicators are based on data from the LFS: A1, Educational attainment of the adult population; A3, Labour market outcomes; and C2, Transitions to the labour market.

Table 5 Postsecondary Student Information System (PSIS)
ISCED PSIS (enrolment and graduation)
  • College or CEGEP technical postsecondary program
  • Undergraduate level certificate or diploma
  • College post-diploma program
  • College university transfer program (includes associate degree)
  • Collaborative degree program (combined college and university postsecondary program but not University transfer)
  • Applied degree
  • Bachelor's degree
  • First professional degree
  • 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

Notes:  Information on enrolments from PSIS 2008/2009 was used for Indicator C1, International students. Therefore, the codeset and mapping to ISCED from previous editions was used for that indicator.
The financial indicator, B1, Expenditure per student, is based on several data sources, including PSIS.

OECD averages

As stated in the OECD's Education at a GlanceNote 2:

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 average can be significantly affected by missing data. Given the relatively small number of countries, no statistical methods are used to compensate for this. When a category is not applicable in a country or when the data value is negligible for the corresponding calculation, the value zero is imputed for the purpose of calculating OECD averages. When 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.

OECD member countries

The OECD member countries are: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Please refer to Education at a Glance 2012: OECD Indicators, available on the OECD Web site, for the latest international statistics. The international data presented in this report reflect the OECD figures available at the time of writing; however, the OECD may have made further adjustments that could not be reflected in the averages presented in this report


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.

The harmonized indicators presented in this 2012 edition align with a selection of indicators from the OECD's 2012 edition of Education at a Glance,and they were selected based on their importance for the jurisdictions and the availability of data for Canada and its provinces and territories. The definitions and methodologies agreed upon in developing the harmonized indicators were used to produce the data for Canada and the provinces/territories, and those definitions and methodologies may differ from those used in a particular province/territory. Consequently, the numbers presented in this report may differ from those published independently by the provinces/territories.

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 UNESCO/OECD/Eurostat data collection (UOE) required for EAG.

   Because certain methodological adjustments may have been made in some cases, or because certain data used in the calculations for indicators may have been revised, it is preferable to avoid comparing, for any given indicator, the results presented in this report with those presented in previous editions.

The OECD and other international organizations provide detailed guidelines and definitions to help member countries complete 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 could not be reflected here. For more detailed information on the latest international statistics, please refer to EAG, available on the OECD Web site.

Squared brackets [ ] are used in some tables when the data cannot be disaggregated to conform with the presentation of the ISCED classification categories. When a number appears in brackets, this indicates that the data for that category/column are actually included in the data in another category/column of the table. For example, a [5] appearing in Column 3 signals that the data required for Column 3 are, in this case, captured along with the data presented in Column 5.


  1. See the "Reader's Guide" in Highlights from Education at a Glance 2011, published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2011. For more detailed definitions and explanations of the ISCED standard, please consult Classifying Education Programmes: Manual for ISCED-97 Implementation in OECD Countries (1999), which is available on the OECD Web site.
  2. See the "Reader's Guide" in Education at a Glance 2011: OECD Indicators, published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and available on the OECD Web site.
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