Tuesday, September 12, 2006

We're number one! - But not for long...

Hey, new OECD study out that ranks Canada as the top OECD country for university and college grads. But we come last for enrollment growth for the last decade. Story below from today's National Post.

PUBLICATION: National Post
DATE: 2006.09.12
BYLINE: Sarah Schmidt

Canadians best educated, but slipping: Enrolment declining

'You can see some countries are catching up and overtaking Canada ... you have to be careful' -- analyst Karine Tremblay talking about post-secondary schooling

OTTAWA - Canada's young people rank as the best educated in an international study of 30 countries, but the country's stagnant post-secondary education enrolment rate means they will soon be bumped out of top spot.

Fifty-three per cent of Canadians aged 25 to 34 have either a college diploma or a university degree, well above the 31% average for member countries of the Organization for Economic Co - operation and Development ( OECD ). But Canada comes last in enrolment growth in the past decade, according to the OECD 's newly released 2006 edition of Education at a Glance.

Total enrolment is up by 4% since 1995, but 2% of that growth is attributable to a change in the population and only 1% to an increase in the enrolment rate, the report states. This is in sharp contrast to gains made in other OECD countries, where there has been an overall average increase in enrolment of 49%, all attributable to a hike in the enrolment rate rather than demographic shifts.

The trend should be a wake-up call for Canada, OECD analyst Karine Tremblay said yesterday.

"As the rest of the OECD is improving, this is not the case for Canada," Ms. Tremblay said. "You're starting from a higher position, so it's fair that the rate of growth would be smaller. But other countries are really overtaking Canada."

Korea, in particular, is making great strides in broadening the reach of its education system. Forty-nine per cent of Koreans aged 25 to 34 have a post-secondary education, trailing Canada by only 4%. But in the past decade, enrolment in post-secondary education has increased by 59% even though its school-age population has dropped.

There could be economic consequences unless the pattern is reversed, said Ms. Tremblay, a member of the team that prepared the study.

"Future economic success in the new economy will be based on broad baseline qualifications. You can see some countries are catching up and overtaking Canada. You have a very good situation now, but you have to be careful," Ms. Tremblay said.

Herb O'Heron, senior analyst at the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, has heard the message clearly.

"Many, many other countries are really increasing their enrolment numbers. That really to me is the cause for the greater concern. If we had a comparative and competitive advantage because of our post-secondary system years ago, that's certainly been eroded and many countries have surpassed us at the university level and graduate level," he said.

Mr. O'Heron said governments need to expand university opportunities as a key part of any economic strategy.

The report notes a decrease in the role of public funding in Canada's education systems. In 1995, 81.2% of the money that went to higher levels of education came from public sources. By 2003, the proportion of public money had dropped to 77.4%.

Only Japan, Australia, the United States and Korea contribute a smaller proportion of public dollars to all levels of education.

Canada also has room for improvement in the employment status of its best educated citizens.

Among those aged 25 to 64 with post-secondary education credentials, the unemployment rate was 4.7% in 2004. While this represents an improvement from a decade earlier, when the rate was 6.2%, it still remained above the 2004 OECD average of 3.9%.

The unemployment rate among this educated cohort was also lower in the United States in 2004 (3.3%) and Europe (4.2%).

"It may be a skills mismatch, or it may be connected to the broader economic situation," Ms. Tremblay said.


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