Educational attainment of person

Status: This standard was approved as a departmental standard on April 7, 2016.

Definition

Educational attainment refers to the highest level of education that a person has successfully completed. Successful completion of a level of education refers to the achievement of the learning objectives of that level, typically validated through the assessment of acquired knowledge, skills and competencies.

At the primary and secondary school level, educational attainment refers to the highest grade completed or whether or not the person has obtained a secondary school (high school) diploma or equivalency certificate. At the postsecondary level, it refers to postsecondary certificates, diplomas or degrees awarded by accredited educational institutions. It also includes educational certificates or diplomas awarded to the person by provincial/territorial or federal authorities, such as the journeyperson designation in the trades. Educational attainment can also include the partial completion of a postsecondary qualification.

Person refers to an individual and is the unit of analysis for most social statistics programmes.

Usage

Educational attainment is usually measured with respect to the highest education program successfully completed, which is typically certified by a recognized qualification.

At the primary and secondary levels, educational attainment can be used to present data in terms of the highest grade category completed in the Highest educational attainment classification.

At the postsecondary level, it can be used to measure partially completed qualifications in the class "Some postsecondary education (highest)" in the Highest educational attainment classification, which includes persons who have received some education that can be counted towards a postsecondary qualification but have not received any postsecondary qualification. The Highest certificate, diploma or degree classification refers only to the highest education program successfully completed. As a result, categories of the two classifications below the level of completed postsecondary qualifications are not directly comparable.

Information on educational attainment is typically presented for persons aged 15 years and over.

Derivation

Educational attainment can be collected directly from a single question referring specifically to the highest certificate, diploma or degree obtained by the person. It can also be derived from responses to a set of questions, each of which ask whether the person has obtained a specific certificate, diploma or degree. It can also be derived from a single question which asks for all certificates, diplomas or degrees the person has obtained. Information on the highest partially completed qualification, if included, can be derived by combining information on the highest certificate, diploma or degree obtained with one or more questions on whether the person has completed some education at a given level.

Conformity to relevant internationally recognized standards

This standard is consistent with the definition of Educational attainment provided in the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 2011, published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics (2012, p. 20, paragraph 81):

The educational attainment of an individual is defined as the highest ISCED level completed by the individual. For operational purposes, educational attainment is usually measured with respect to the highest education programme successfully completed, which is typically certified by a recognised qualification.

ISCED classifies educational programs and includes a classification of the levels of educational attainment. This standard includes classifications other than the ISCED classification in order to reflect the language used to describe education levels in Canada.

This standard is also consistent with ISCED 2011 in its definition of "successful" completion, and in its inclusion of certificates awarded by provincial or federal authorities that recognize the skills gained by means of informal learning as equivalent to formal educational qualifications.

With the adoption of the ISCED 2011 definition of Educational attainment, this standard is no longer fully consistent with the definition of Educational attainment found in the United Nations' Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses, Revision 2, 2008. The UN document broadly defines Educational attainment as "the highest grade completed within the most advanced level attended," implying that partially-completed credentials are necessarily included in its measurement. By comparison, the ISCED 2011 definition does not require that partially-completed credentials be included in the measurement of educational attainment; in fact their inclusion is an exception to the usual practice. ISCED 2011 specifies that, "(f)or operational purposes, educational attainment is usually measured with respect to the highest education programme successfully completed, which is typically certified by a recognised qualification," while acknowledging that the inclusion of partially-completed credentials is another option for classification of the concept. This standard includes the 'Highest certificate, diploma or degree' classification that does not include partially-completed credentials in its measurement.

The UN concept of Educational attainment does not include credentials conferred by professional organisations. (Source: Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses, Revision 2, 2008). Such credentials are excluded from the current standard.

Classifications

Additional information

See:

Relation to previous version

  • Educational attainment of person April 07, 2016 to current

    This variable replaces the previous standard for Educational attainment. The definition and usage sections now clarify that:

    (1) Educational attainment can be measured in terms of either the highest education program that a person has successfully completed or the highest education program that a person has partially completed. The conditions for successful completion are described.

    (2) Educational certificates or diplomas awarded to the person by provincial or federal authorities, such as the journeyperson designation in the trades are included.

    The standard also now includes a section on Derivation that describes how the variable may be derived. In addition, the standard also includes the "Highest certificate, diploma or degree" classification as a means of measuring educational attainment. This classification had been included in the previous standard for Certificate, diploma or degree (now Educational qualifications).

    Revisions to the definition and usage, and the inclusion of the "Highest certificate, diploma or degree" classification in this standard reflect the new definition of Educational Attainment made by the International Standard Classification of Education and incorporated into ISCED 2011.

  • Educational attainment of person June 20, 2011 to April 06, 2016

    This variable replaces the current standard for Education attainment. The classification differs from the earlier standard in providing definitions as well as more detailed levels for postsecondary non-university certificates and diplomas obtained. A class that recognises the completion of some postsecondary education without having received a postsecondary certificate diploma or degree is also included. Finally, the class definitions at the secondary school and primary school levels provide equivalencies in the Quebec education system.

  • Educational attainment July 15, 1998 to June 19, 2011
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