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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 edition of Education Indicators in Canada: An International Perspective alongside the corresponding indicators from Education at a Glance 2013: OECD indicators.

Table 1 Outline of indicators in Education Indicators in Canada and Education at a Glance
Education Indicators in Canada: An International Perspective, 2013 Education at a Glance 2013: 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 A5 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 introduces the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED)Note 1 and provides a brief description for each category.

Table 2 International education categories and descriptions
International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 1997 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 work force)
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 work force or for postsecondary non tertiary education at ISCED level 4)
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 15 or 16 years of age.
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 work force)
Internationally, this level straddles the boundary between upper secondary and postsecondary education, even though it might be considered upper secondary or postsecondary in a national context. Programme content may not be significantly more advanced than that in upper secondary, but is not as advanced as that in tertiary programmes. Duration usually the equivalent of between 6 months and 2 years of full-time study. Students tend to be older than those enrolled in upper secondary education.
Tertiary education
ISCED 5 (subcategories 5A and 5B, see below)
Tertiary-type A [university-level education]
Largely theory-based programmes designed to provide sufficient qualifications for entry to advanced research programmes and professions with high skill requirements, such as medicine, dentistry or architecture. Duration at least 3 years full-time, though usually 4 or more years. These programmes are not exclusively offered at universities, and not all programmes nationally recognised as university programmes fulfil the criteria to be classified as tertiary-type A. Tertiary-type A programmes include second-degree programmes, such as the master’s degree.
Tertiary-type B [college; vocationally oriented]
Programmes are typically shorter than those of tertiary-type A and focus on practical, technical or occupational skills for direct entry into the labour market, although some theoretical foundations may be covered in the respective programmes. They have a minimum duration of 2 years full-time equivalent at the tertiary level.
Advanced research programmes
Programmes that lead directly to the award of an advanced research qualification, e.g., Ph.D. The theoretical duration of these programmes is 3 years, full-time, in most countries (for a cumulative total of at least 7 years full-time equivalent at the tertiary level), although the actual enrolment time is typically longer. 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). The following tables show the correspondence between ISCED and the other data sources used for the indicators in this report.

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 (program type and credential type)
  • Career, technical or professional training program (diploma)
  • Post career, technical or professional training program (certificate, diploma, other type of credential associated with a program)
  • Undergraduate program (certificate, diploma, degree [includes applied degree], attestation and other short program credentials, associate degree, other type of credential associated with a program)
  • Post-baccalaureate non-graduate program (certificate, diploma, degree [includes applied degree], other type of credential associated with a program)
  • Graduate qualifying program, second cycle (other type of credential associated with a program)
  • Graduate qualifying program, third cycle
  • Health-related residency program (certificate, diploma, degree [includes applied degree], other type of credential associated with a program)
  • Graduate program, second cycle (certificate, diploma, degree [includes applied degree], attestation and other short program credentials, other type of credential associated with a program)
  • Graduate program, third cycle (diploma, degree [includes applied degree], attestation and other short program credentials)
  • Graduate program, above the third cycle (diploma)

Notes:  Information on enrolments from PSIS 2009/2010 was used for Indicator C1, International students. Indicator, B1, Expenditure per student, is based on several data sources, including PSIS.

OECD averages

As stated in the OECD's Education at a Glance 2013: OECD IndicatorsNote 1:

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 surveyed, 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 [South 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 2013: OECD Indicators, available on the OECD Web site at, for the latest international statistics.


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 causes 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 2013 edition align with a selection of indicators from the OECD’s 2013 edition of Education at a Glance, and they were selected based on their policy relevance 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 the production of EAG.

It is preferable to avoid comparing, for any given indicator, the results presented in this report with those presented in previous editions 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.

The OECD and other international organizations provide detailed guidelines and definitions to help member countries complete the complex data collection process 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. For more detailed information on the latest international statistics, please refer to EAG, available on the OECD Web site at

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 Education at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators, published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and available on the OECD Web site:
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