Education in Canada – The highest proportion of adults aged 25 to 64 with tertiary education among OECD countries

This report is a product of the Pan-Canadian Education Indicators Program (PCEIP). It is intended to facilitate the comparison of educational systems in Canada’s provinces and territories with those of countries that belong to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The document presents a series of indicators harmonized to the definitions and methodologies used by the OECD in Education at a Glance. The indicators are designed to serve as a basis for decision making and for development of programs in the field of education.

The output of educational institutions and the impact of learning

1) Educational attainment of the adult population

  • In Canada, the proportion of adults aged 25 to 64 with tertiary education (college/university completion) increased from 46% in 2005 to 57% in 2016, 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 15% in 2005 to 9% in 2016. Similar changes were mirrored in the provinces and territories.
  • In 2016, one-quarter (26%) of 25- to 64-year-olds in Canada had completed short cycle tertiary education, far greater than the average of 8% reported by the OECD.
  • Canada’s average for completion of university education for 25- to 64-year-olds was 31%, a rate just above the OECD figure at 29%. In Canada, university degree refers to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral and equivalent degrees.
  • At the post-secondary non-tertiary level, which captures the traditionally male-dominated areas of trades, the proportion of men (14%) was double that of women (7%). The opposite was true at the college and university levels, with the gap more marked at college (29% for women vs 22% for men) than university (33% for women and 28% for men).
  • Ninety-three percent of Canadian adults aged 25 to 34 had attained at least upper secondary education (a high school diploma) in 2016, compared with 86% 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; 2016 figures for all provinces ranged from 92% to 95%.

2) Upper secondary graduation

  • Canada’s upper secondary graduation rate was 87% in 2015. The OECD average was 86%, and most OECD countries reported graduation rates of at least 80%. Within the OECD, Finland and Japan had the highest graduation rates at 99% and 98% respectively. 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 93% of all graduates in 2015, compared with 80% 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 91%; the rate for males, 84%.
  • In Canada in 2015, successful completion of upper secondary programmes in public schools was 77%. This indicator measures the “on-time” graduation of the 2012/2013 cohort of Grade 10 students (Secondary III 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 17% in Nunavut to 84% in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Ontario.

3) Labour market outcomes

  • In Canada and other OECD countries, employment prospects increase with educational attainment. In 2016, Canada’s employment rate for adults aged 25 to 64 who had not completed upper secondary education (high school) was 58%. In and throughout Canada, as well as in the OECD countries overall, the 2015 employment rates among the 25- to 64-year-old population were clearly highest among individuals who had a “tertiary education”; that is, a college or university credential.
  • In most OECD countries in 2016, the difference in employment rates between the sexes was less pronounced among university graduates 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: 77% for men compared with 65% for women. Among university and college graduates, the male–female differences narrowed to around 6 percentage points.
  • Employment rates dropped for young adults aged 25-34 with lower levels of education. In 2016, 72% of young adults with upper secondary were employed versus 78% for this same age group in 2005. This was not true for young adults with tertiary education, as between the two time periods, employment rates were the same.
  • In Canada, for 55-64-year-olds, the employment rate was higher in 2016 at every level of education than the rate observed in 2005 indicating that the older generation increasingly postponed retirement and continued working beyond age 55. For most of the OECD countries the employment rate did not change for this age group during the same time period.



Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Education Indicators in Canada: An International Perspective (81-604-X)


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