Canada’s education system is one of the best performing in the world. Our system attracts people from around the world, supports our dynamism, and allows people of all backgrounds a chance to succeed. High quality and accessible education and training in Canada are essential to support future growth.
This section explores indicators related to Canada’s public spending, performance, and participation across all levels of education and training.
The report highlights that, even with Canada’s strong performance on education, there are gaps in support and barriers to educational attainment for many Canadians. It also discusses the disruptive impact of Covid-19 for students, from the primary to post-secondary levels.
There have been some small increases in spending in the latest year’s data but overall, the trend is down from a spending high in 2009. When post-secondary spending is incorporated, Canada’s ranking improves in comparison to other OECD countries.
Canada ranked 18th out of 36 OECD countries in 2015.
Canada spent 3.2% of GDP in 2015.
Top 10 of countries tracked by OECD.
Threshold: 10th in the OECD was France with 3.4% of GDP spent in 2015.
This measure also includes some forms of post-high school vocational education.
Public spending on education reflects the degree to which Canadian governments have prioritized investments in education compared to other expenditure areas. Canada generally has a strong education system, but greater investment will further support Canada’s well-being and future human capital development. Unequal levels of spending across Canada’s education system must also be addressed, such as significant funding gaps for First Nations schools.
Canada has declined in terms of its percentage of spending on training over the past few decades. Spending in 2018 reached a low since the OECD started tracking in 1985.
Canada ranked 18th of 32 OECD countries in 2018.
Canada directed 0.06% of public spending toward training.
Top 10 of OECD countries
Threshold: 10th in the OECD was Ireland with 0.12% of public spending directed toward training in 2018.
Training is an important factor in ensuring Canada’s workforce has the essential skills required to meet labour needs and to boost human capital potential, especially as technology changes. Canada’s system for training could benefit from greater levels of investment from both public and private sources.
The proportion of Canadians with a tertiary education has steadily increased over the past three decades. Canada increased its rank from 3rd to 2nd in the OECD in 2016, and has since remained ranked 2nd on this indicator.
Canada ranked 2nd out of 36 OECD countries in 2019.
63% of Canadian 25 to 34 year-olds had a tertiary education in 2019.
Top 5 of OECD countries.
Threshold: 5th in the OECD was Lithuania with 55.2% in 2019.
Post-secondary education is a requirement for many high quality, resilient, and high growth jobs. Even with high rates of post-secondary attainment, there are still barriers for many Canadians. Family income and parental education are closely associated with whether young people pursue post-secondary education. There is also a notable gap between university completion rates for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.
Canada is among the top performing OECD countries in reading, mathematics and science for 15-year-olds, as assessed through the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).
Canada ranked 4th out of 36 OECD countries in 2018.
Canada had an average score of 516.7 in 2018 across reading, science and math scores.
Top 10 of OECD countries.
Threshold: New Zealand was 10th, with an average score of 502.7 in 2018.
Performance among secondary school students reflects the quality of education in Canada. A strong education system will attract people to Canada and forms a solid foundation to support Canada’s future human capital needs.
The proportion of Canada's youth who are not in employment, education and training (NEET) has become smaller over the past two decades despite some increases in the early 2010s. Though Canada has not reached the top 10 of OECD countries, it has seen some improvements and is close to the target. Notably, Covid-19 increased the NEET rate to unprecedented levels in 2020. Work will be required for Canada to stay on track.
Canada ranked 13th out of 33 OECD countries in 2019.
Canada's youth NEET rate was 12.6% of the population of 20 to 24 year-olds in 2019.
Top 10 of OECD countries.
Threshold: 10th was Austria with a youth NEET rate of 10.9% in 2019.
The youth NEET rate measures the degree to which young people are on track to fully participating in society and the economy. NEET youth are at risk of being in poverty and having long-term negative economic and social outcomes. Groups at higher risk for being NEET include young women with children, immigrants and Indigenous youth.