Canada Shows Highest Level of Tertiary Education Attainment, Says OECD


Washington, September 09, 2014 – According to new OECD data, Canada has a highly educated population, due in large part to high attainment rates at the college level. Furthermore, Canadian adults rank near the OECD average on foundational skills development, while Canadian youth rank above average.

Education at Glance 2014 finds that 53% of Canadian adults have a tertiary qualification, the highest share among OECD countries where the average is 32%. Canada’s high ranking is largely due to its high rates of vocational (tertiary-type B) college-based attainment rather than academic university (tertiary-type A) attainment. Canada ranks first among 34 OECD countries in the proportion of 25-64 year-olds with a college education (25%), but is tied for seventh place (with Korea and Denmark) in the proportion of adults with a university education (28%).

As in most OECD countries, women are more likely than men to hold a tertiary qualification. This gender gap is greater among 25-34 year-olds (66% for women versus 48% for men) than among the broader 25-64 year-old age grouping (58% for women versus 47% for men), reflecting faster attainment growth for women than for men.

Canadian adults rank at the OECD average in literacy scores and below average in numeracy scores. As in other OECD countries, higher education in Canada is associated with higher levels of literacy and numeracy. The study also highlights that while Canadian 15-year-olds score significantly above the OECD average in mathematics, their average math scores deteriorated between 2003 and 2012. At the same time, the share of top performers decreased while the share of low performers increased.

As in other OECD countries, highly skilled workers are rewarded in the labor market. In 2012, 82% of adults with tertiary education were employed, compared with 75% of those with upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education, and 56% of those with less than upper secondary education. While employment income increases with education across the OECD, earnings premiums in Canada are lower than the OECD average. In 2011, adults with university education earned approximately 60% more on average than adults with upper secondary education, while adults with college education earned approximately 13% more. Among 25-34 year-olds, people with university and college education earned 33% and 10% more respectively than those with upper secondary education.

Spending on education in Canada is close to the OECD average, with a relatively high share of private funding. In 2011, public spending on all levels of education in Canada represented approximately 13% of total public expenditures and 5.6% of GDP, both of which are close to the OECD average. However, annual expenditure per tertiary student in Canada is one of the highest of all OECD and G20 countries. The private share of funding at the tertiary level, at 43% in 2011, is well above the OECD average of 31%, but is considerably less than the share of private funding in the United States (65%) and the United Kingdom (70%). Canada ranks among the countries with the highest tuition fees.

Education at a Glance 2014 analyses the education systems of the 34 OECD member countries, as well as Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Latvia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. Further information on Education at a Glance, including country notes, multilingual summaries and key data, is available


Related Documents