By the Numbers: Where does the Canadian educational system stand?

November 1, 2012
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

By: Arnav Agarwal


Despite having relatively easy access to education in Canada, we, as students, have found new reasons to complain: the work-load is intense, our schedules are packed between classes and homework, and weekends are far too short.

While some might think this sentiment is characteristic of midterm season alone, they would be surprised to learn where Canadian students stand on a global scale in terms of overall attitude to schooling. For a country whose government’s expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP stacked up to 5.2 per cent, ranking 49th among 132 listed countries, 37 per cent of school-going children indicated they do not like attending school and 58 per cent of students find school boring. This puts into question how effective the education system truly is at providing students a valuable and engaging learning experience.

Student tuition fees have never been a popular area with the Canadian student body, and understandably so. An increase of 26.6 per cent is evident in undergraduate tuition fees in less than ten years, comparing fees from 1999-2000 to those of 2005-06. The high dependence on OSAP, scholarships, bursaries and loans is quite understandable when one considers an educational expenditure for undergraduate studies having only grown from the $4,214 mark it stood at in 2005-06. Almost half of the college and university classes who graduated in 2000 owed money to government, non-government or both government and non-government sources, highlighting the financial burden the educational system places on a demographic that is largely still in the process of establishing itself.

While the holes are evident in the Canadian educational experience, the country has enjoyed numerous successes in funding an educational system which has demonstrated effectiveness in multiple aspects. In 2002 and 2003, total expenditures on education in Canada amounted to $6,667 per student, with approximately 5 million students were enrolled at elementary or secondary institutions and another 689,700 were enrolled in full-time or part-time post-secondary education nation-wide. The financial resource investment has sky-rocketed up, as Statistics Canada reported total expenditures per student averaging $31,103 on university education in a 2012 report, while expenditures stood at $11,489 for secondary education and at $10,758 for primary education in 2008-09. A growing investment into the student learning experience is clearly evident within the decade.

An assessment of educational qualifications placed Canada at the top of a list of twenty-one OECD countries in 2003, for percentage of working-age population between the ages of 25 and 64 who held a college or university degree: outdoing its neighbours to the south by 6 per cent, Canada having 44 per cent of its middle-aged population as credential-holders captures the success of the educational system in being easily-accessible and well-rounded. A study by Statistics Canada in 2004 further reinforced these notions, identifying 59.1 per cent of those aged between 25 to 54 in the country as being post-secondary certificate or university degree holders, 8.0 per cent as having been enrolled in some form of post-secondary education, 20.1 per cent as being high-school graduates, and only 12.9 per cent as having less than a high-school education.

A more recent assessment completed in 2009 yielded similar results, indicating 50.8 per cent of those aged 15 and over had attained some form of post-secondary education.

So, where does the Canadian educational system stand now? Student attitudes towards their education or the resources they have to utilize to gain access to it don’t seem extremely positive. However, increased investment in the educational system over the years, as well as positive nationwide population assessments over several years are indicative of a growing educational system and one that, despite having its shortcomings and being a work in progress, continues to enjoy its own successes.

Subscribe to our Mailing List

© 2022 The Silhouette. All Rights Reserved. McMaster University's Student Newspaper.