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Canada ranks highest for number of college degrees, sees gender gap in jobs: report

TORONTO – A new report ranks Canada first when it comes to adults with a college degree and third in percentage of public money spent on higher education, but highlights a gender gap when it comes to full-time jobs.

The report was published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an international group of 34 of the world’s most developed countries that aims to stimulate economic progress and world trade by comparing policy experiences and identifying good practices.

Tuesday’s report, Education at a Glance 2012, looked at education statistics of the 34 OECD member countries as well as Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

According to our ‘country note,’ Canada ranked first in the proportion of adults with a college education, but eighth when it comes to a university education.

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Andrew Parkin, director of the Council of Ministers of Education Canada (CMEC), says the top spot for college degrees is primarily due to the fact that our college system is the largest of the OECD countries, but it’s also a reflection of our solid secondary school system.

“There’s a direct link between the quality of our primary secondary school system and the equity of our secondary school system – the fact that it provides education opportunities for people from so many different backgrounds,” said Parkin. “Colleges serve different types of students than universities do. And it provides a way for a much larger proportion of the population in Canada to go on to some form of school after high school.”

More Canadians have college degrees per capita than people in other OECD countries, and Canada also spends more on post-secondary school per student per year.

“Canada ranks third, behind New Zealand and Norway, in the percentage of total public expenditure that is dedicated to higher education,” says Canada’s country note from Education at a Glance.

Canada’s 38 per cent of total public spending on post-secondary school is significantly higher than the OECD average of 23.5 per cent. Parkin says there is a link between high spending and high quality, but points to other factors that play a part, such as geographic dimension.

“We’re not a small central European country that only needs a certain number of institutions,” says Parkin. “We have to provide institutions that not only provide different types of programs, but provide those in different parts of the country.”

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Women and education

While Canadians should be proud that women here have the highest post-secondary education attainment rate for women or men compared to other OECD countries, Canadian men are more likely to be employed, with a 6.2 per cent difference.

Parkin notes that this gap is a universal phenomenon, and not specific to Canadians. He also points out that it’s hard to know if this is a bad thing (due to female employment barriers), or if it’s based on choices women are making.

The report says this is partly because the employment rate doesn’t take into account women who opt to work part-time or take extended maternity leave. Parkin adds that university-educated women are more likely to have professional jobs that offer such childcare benefits.

“When Canada extended its maternity leave program 10 years ago (roughly) they doubled the period for which you could go on leave, and that was quite a successful program,” says Parkin.

The report notes that policies like extended maternity leave may be reflected in the slightly lower unemployment rate for women with higher education than for similarly educated men.

Read the country note on Canada here, and the full OECD report here.

According to OECD’s statement, Education at a Glance provides comparable national statistics about education for the 34 OECD member countries, as well as Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

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The 2012 report includes indicators on public and private spending on education, tuition fees, adult participation in education, class sizes, teacher salaries and decision-making powers of schools, and analysis of national exam systems and the criteria for attending tertiary education.

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