Canada Leads OECD Countries on Higher Education

The latest edition of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s annual education report had some good news for Canada, which continues to occupy the top place when it comes to post-secondary educational attainment, Angela Mulholland of CTV News reports. However, data also shows that Canada’s college students continue to pay some of the highest tuition fees of all the nations surveyed, and other countries are also quickly catching up on key higher education metrics.

Slightly more than 50% of Canadians have post-secondary degrees or diplomas, the OECD report finds. This places the country comfortably atop all others on the ranking, with its closest neighbor – the US – at 42%. The United Kingdom and New Zealand follow with 29% each.

More than a quarter of Canadian students have bachelor’s degrees, which puts it 4 percentage points above the OECD average of 23%.

But Andrew Parkin, director general of the Canada’s Council of the Ministers for Educations, notes that when it comes to young adults with post-secondary credentials (those between the ages of 25 and 34), Canada is in third place, behind Korea and Japan.

“A number of countries are really putting an emphasis catching up,” he told CTV News Channel. “In countries like Korea and Japan, their older citizens are not as well educated as older Canadians, but their younger ones are starting to leap ahead. It’s the growing recognition around the world of the importance of education,” he said.

According to Parkin, Canada’s strong showing could be attributed to the country’s varied post-secondary education system. The system includes not only big universities and four-year colleges, but also community colleges and certificate programs that provide options for students with a range of educational ambitions.

Parkin also credits Canada with not sorting students early on in their academic careers based on what kind of higher education they may wish to pursue.

And unlike other countries, such the United Kingdom, Canada’s high-school system doesn’t break students into education groups based on their potential for going to university.

“We tend to have a system that focuses on the success and the potential of every student. We don’t tend to stream students at an early state among those who might go on to other academic interests education and those who might not,” he said.

“We focus on finding a pathway to higher education for as many students as possible. And I think that really pays off.”

For those with a post-secondary degree in Canada, the unemployment rate was roughly 5% in 2011 compared to 11% for those who only had a high school diploma.