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

A1 Educational attainment of the adult population

  • In Canada, the proportion of adults aged 25 to 64 with tertiary education (college/university completion) increased from 40% in 2000 to 53% in 2012—the highest rate among OECD countries. At the same time, the proportion of individuals with less than high school completion ( “below upper secondary”) decreased, from 19% to 11%. Similar changes were mirrored in the provinces.
  • In 2012, one-quarter (25%) of 25- to 64-year-olds in Canada had completed tertiary-type B programmes, far greater than the average of 10% reported by the OECD. 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 proportion of women who had successfully completed tertiary-type B programmes (29%) was higher than the proportion for men (21%). In the traditionally male-dominated areas of trades and apprenticeship (“postsecondary non-tertiary” education), attainment was more common among men (15%) than women (8%).
  • The OECD average for completion of tertiary-type A/advanced research programmes for 25- to 64-year-olds was 24%, which compares with Canada’s figure of 28%. 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. The gender gap was less pronounced at this level of educational attainment, with figures of 29% for women and 26% for men.
  • Ninety-two percent of Canadian adults aged 25 to 34 had attained at least upper secondary education in 2012, compared with 84% for those aged 55 to 64, reflecting change in attainment patterns for high school completion over time. There were relatively small differences between provinces in the proportion of adults aged 25 to 34 with at least a high school diploma; 2012 figures for all provinces ranged from 90% to 94%.

A2 Upper secondary graduation

  • Canada’s upper secondary graduation rate was 85% in 2011. The OECD average was 84%, and most OECD countries reported graduation rates of at least 80%. The upper secondary graduation rate corresponds to the probability that an individual will graduate from high school during his or her lifetime.
  • In Canada, graduates under 25 years of age represented 94% of all graduates in 2011, compared with 95% for the OECD overall.
  • Upper secondary graduation rates for females were higher than those for males in all provinces and territories, as well as in most of the OECD countries for which comparable data were available. In Canada, the rate for females was 87%; the rate for males, 82%.
  • In Canada in 2011, successful completion in public schools was 73%. This indicator measures the “on-time” graduation of the 2008/2009 cohort of Grade 10 students (3e secondaire in Quebec), an indication of the efficiency of the public school system. Among the provinces and territories, the proportion of students who completed their education within the expected time varied considerably, from 12% in Nunavut to 84% in Nova Scotia.

A3 Labour market outcomes

  • In Canada and other OECD countries, employment prospects increase with educational attainment. In 2012, Canada’s employment rate for adults aged 25 to 64 who had not completed upper secondary education (high school) was 56%. In and throughout Canada, as well as in the OECD countries overall, the 2012 employment rates among the 25- to 64-year-old population were clearly highest—around 80% and beyond—among individuals who had a “tertiary education”; that is, a college or university credential.
  • Between 2000 and 2012, employment rates were consistently higher among individuals with a tertiary education compared with those who had not attained that level of education, both throughout Canada and the OECD countries overall.
  • In most OECD countries in 2012, 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 the employment rates for men and women in the upper secondary graduation category: 79% for men compared with 67% for women. Among graduates of tertiary programs, both type B (college) and type A/advanced research programmes (university), the male–female differences narrowed to 6 percentage points in both cases.

Chapter B: Financial resources invested in education

B1 Expenditure per student

  • In Canada in 2010/2011, expenditure per student at the secondary level ($10,618 US dollars using purchasing power parity) was slightly higher than that at the primary (including lower secondary) level ($9,714 US dollars). These expenditures were above the OECD averages of $8,296 and $9,506 for primary and secondary schools respectively.
  • In Canada at the primary and secondary level, the portion of expenditure per student allocated to core services represented 95.2% of the total expenditure per student. This is similar to the average proportion of 94.2% spent on core services in the OECD countries. Expenditure on educational core services includes all spending directly related to education; i.e., on teachers, school buildings, teaching materials, books and administration of schools.
  • The total expenditure per student on university education (Tertiary type-A and Advanced research programmes including Research and Development) in Canada was $27,102 (US dollars). This was the highest among the OECD countries followed by U.S. with $26,021 (U.S dollars). The comparable OECD average for all tertiary (including tertiary type B in addition to type A and advanced research programmes including R&D) was $13,958, which is only slightly more than half the Canadian expenditure.
  • Expenditure per student rises with the level of education in Canada, although the difference in the ratio between primary and secondary is almost negligible. However, the difference in ratio between primary and university is large: expenditure per student at the university level is almost three times higher than that at the primary level in Canada.

B2 Expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP

  • With 6.4% of its GDP allocated to educational institutions in 2010, Canada devoted a slightly higher share of its wealth to education than the OECD countries overall (an average of 6.1%). The share of GDP devoted to educational institutions varies from one province or territory to another. The allocation of financial resources to educational institutions is a collective choice, made by government, business, and individual students and their families. The share of GDP is partially influenced by the size of the school-age population and enrolment in education, as well as relative wealth.
  • In 2010, 42% of the share of GDP that Canada invested in education was allocated to the tertiary sector. Among the OECD countries, Canada, along with the United States (39%) and Chile (35%), allocated the largest share of education spending to tertiary education.

B3 Distribution of expenditure on education

  • The proportions of education expenditure allocated to current spending in Canada in 2010 were: 93% for primary, secondary and postsecondary non-tertiary education, and 87% for tertiary. These figures are fairly similar to the average proportions reported by the OECD for its member countries: 93% and 90%, respectively. Current expenditure reflects spending on school resources that are used each year for the operation of schools.
  • For primary, secondary and postsecondary non-tertiary education, the compensation of staff (78%)—particularly teachers (63%)—accounted for the largest proportion of current expenditure in Canada in 2010, a situation mirrored in all other OECD countries. At the tertiary level in Canada, 65% of current expenditure was devoted to compensation of all staff; more than half of which (38%) was spent on compensation for teachers. In all provinces and territories, the proportion of current expenditure allocated to compensation of all staff employed in education was larger in the primary, secondary and postsecondary non-tertiary sector than in the tertiary sector.
  • In Canada, 13% of education expenditure for tertiary education was allocated to capital expenditure; the OECD average was 11%. For primary, secondary and postsecondary non-tertiary, the corresponding figures for Canada and the OECD were both 7%. Capital expenditure reflects spending on assets that last longer than one year and includes spending on the construction, renovation and major repair of buildings.

Chapter C: Access to education, participation and progression

C1 International students

  • In 2011, there were 122,277 international students registered in tertiary programmes in Canada. They accounted for 8.2% of all students enrolled in tertiary education, a proportion very similar to the OECD average (8.0%). A vast majority of them (70.2%) were in tertiary type-A programmes. “International students” includes non-permanent residents, such as those with study permit. It also includes those enrolled in a Canadian program from a Canadian institution that is not located in Canada (also known as “offshore students”) as well as non-Canadian students studying via the internet.
  • Students from Asia accounted for more than half (60.6%) the international students in Canada in 2011. The high proportion of Asian students in Canada is also mirrored in the OECD countries, where Asia is generally the largest source of international students, accounting for over half (52.0%)Note 1 of the total. Countries such as Australia (81.5%), United States (73.3%) and New Zealand (69.8%) had a significantly larger percentage of international students coming from Asia than the OECD average.
  • Students from China represented the largest group of international students from an individual country of origin, accounting for 27.0% of all international students in Canada, followed by students from India (8.3%), France (7.5%), the United States (7.0%) and South Korea (4.2%).

C2 Transitions to the labour market

  • In Canada in 2012, 44% of young adults aged 15 to 29 were still involved “in education”. The most recent international average for the OECD countries was 49%. The proportion of females (46%) was higher than that for males (43%). The proportion of “in education” 15- to 29-year-olds remained quite stable in Canada over the 2002-to-2012 period.
  • In 2012, 18% of 15- to 19-year-olds in Canada were no longer pursuing a formal education; the comparable OECD average is 14%. Many in this 15-to-19 age group were employed, and some could actually be high school graduates who had not engaged in any further education.
  • The total “not in education” portion of the 15- to 29-year-old population also includes those who are neither employed nor in education (or training), referred to as the “NEET” population. In 2012, 13% of Canada’s population aged 15 to 29 was neither employed nor in education, compared with the OECD average of 15%. In Canada and in the OECD overall, the highest proportion of individuals who were not in education and not in employment was in the 25-to-29 age group: 17%, which compares with the OECD’s 19%.

Chapter D: The learning environment and organization of schools

D1 Instruction time

  • In Canada, in 2013/2014, the total intended instruction time in formal classroom settings was 8,289 hours on average, between the ages of 6 and 14 (this includes the primary (ages 6 to 11) and lower secondary (ages 12 to 14) levels of education).  By comparison, total intended instruction time for the OECD countries for which data were available was 7,615 hours.  This was 674 fewer hours than the average total intended instruction time in all public institutions in Canada during the 2013/2014 school year.
  • Total intended  instruction time for students aged 6 to 17 (primary, lower secondary and upper secondary levels)  varied by province and territory, ranging from 12,252 hours in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut to 9,900 hours in Quebec (where upper secondary ends at age 16).

D2 Teachers’ salaries

  • In Canada, the salary for teachers at the beginning of their careers  in public elementary and secondary schools was just over $47,500 Canadian dollars in 2011/2012, ranging from $40,317 in Quebec to $74,088 in the Northwest Territories.
  • In 2011/2012, teachers’ salaries in and throughout Canada were similar regardless of the level of education being taught. Overall in Canada, average salaries for teachers at the beginning of their career  (presented in US dollars for international comparisons) were $37,145 in both primary and lower secondary institutions, and $37,294 for those in upper secondary institutions. The comparable OECD averages (US dollars) were all lower, and they also varied by level taught, at $29,411, $30,735 and $32,255, respectively.
  • In two-thirds of the provinces and territories in Canada, teachers in public elementary and secondary schools reached their maximum salary after 10 years’ experience—much sooner than their counterparts in other OECD countries. 

D3 Teachers’ working time

  • In Canada, primary school teachers taught an average of 799 hours per year in 2011/2012, compared with the OECD average of 782 hours. Figures vary by province and territory, ranging from 738 hours in Quebec to 905 hours in Alberta.
  • Net annual teaching time was 744 hours at the lower secondary level (generally Grades 7 to 9) and 747 hours at the upper secondary level (generally Grades 10 to 12). These figures for Canada are higher than the averages for the OECD countries overall—50 hours higher at the lower secondary level and 92 hours at the upper secondary level.
  • On average in Canada, net teaching time represents about 60% of teachers’ total working time. It is similar for lower and upper secondary levels taught (61%), and higher at the primary level (65%). This ratio and the pattern across levels of education taught are similar to the averages in OECD countries.

Chapter E:  Skills proficiencies of adults

E1 Insights from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC)

  • Canadians with higher levels of educational attainment performed better than their less educated counterparts in literacy and numeracy. The proportions of Canadians performing at each literacy and numeracy level were similar to the OECD averages, with the exception of the lowest numeracy level where Canada had a slightly higher proportion of adults performing at that level.
  • In Canada and across jurisdictions, those who had higher proficiency levels in literacy and numeracy were more likely to be employed.
  • The proportions of Canadians who reported positive social outcomes were higher among those who performed at the highest level in literacy: 95% of those performing at Levels 4 or 5 reported having good health, 36% said they had trust in others, 35% reported volunteering at least once a month, and 49% thought they had an influence on government.
  • Canadians with higher levels of literacy proficiency had higher rates of participation in formal and non-formal learning activities.


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