School attendance of person

Status: This standard was approved as a departmental standard on May 26, 2021.


School attendance refers to whether a person attended, either full-time or part-time, any accredited educational institution or program during all or part of a specified reference period. The person may have attended more than one educational institution or have been enrolled in more than one program.

Attendance is counted only for courses which could be used as credits towards a certificate, diploma or degree from an educational institution or program such as an elementary school, secondary school (high school), registered apprenticeship program, trade school, college, CEGEP, polytechnic or university. Educational institutions also include seminaries, schools of nursing, private business schools, private or public trade schools, institutes of technology, vocational schools, and schools for people who are deaf or blind. Attendance includes participation in courses or programs offered over the Internet, through correspondence and by other non-traditional methods of delivery.

Attendance does not include training received from an employer unless it could be used as credit towards a certificate, diploma or degree from an accredited educational institution. A person is considered to have attended an educational institution if they were enrolled during the reference period but were absent, for example, due to illness.

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


Some sources may restrict collection to the population aged 15 and over. Other sources, particularly provincial administrative sources, may collect for other age groups, for example, the population aged four and over. The population included in the study should be specified.

School attendance may include students who are 'auditing' a course, that is, persons who are attending a course that is offered for credit but who will not have their performance formally evaluated and who will not receive academic credit for the course.

Conformity to relevant internationally recognized standards

The definition of school attendance in this standard is compatible with UN definitions as found in "Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses, Revision 3", 2017. There, school attendance is defined as "regular attendance at any regular accredited educational institution or programme, public or private, for organized learning at any level of education". The UN excludes from school attendance, "(i)nstruction in particular skills that is not part of the recognized educational structure of the country (for example, in-service training courses in factories)".

The definition of full-time attendance used in this standard does not conform to the recommendation in the OECD handbook for internationally comparative education statistics which suggests that full-time attendance be defined as attending more than 75% of a typical school week. The OECD definition does not match actual practice in Canadian educational institutions, which are more likely to use cut-offs of 60% or 80% of the normal course load. In this standard, in accordance with Canadian practice, full-time and part-time are based on full-time enrolment and part-time enrolment as defined by the educational institution the person attends.


Relation to previous version

  • School attendance of person May 26, 2021 to current

    The wording of the definition of school attendance has been slightly modified in English, but the meaning is unchanged. The definitions and one category name in the Classification of institution of school attendance have been modified, but the meaning is unchanged.

  • School attendance of person April 07, 2016 to May 25, 2021

    This is an update to 'School attendance of person'. The Usage section now notes that students who are auditing a course may be included.

  • School attendance of person June 20, 2011 to April 06, 2016

    This standard differs from the previous standard in several ways. The definition of school attendance here is more detailed than that of the previous standard, providing additional specification of what is included and what is excluded. The current standard also includes three classifications for school attendance that allow for cross classification by the different dimensions (attendance, enrolment and institution) of school attendance. Definitions are now provided for each class in the classification.

    The current attendance classification does not classify part time attendance into day and evening classes, as had the previous standard. This change recognizes that part time students may attend both day and evening classes and also that, given the increase in correspondence courses and courses offered over the Internet, the distinction between day and evening attendance is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

    A classification of the institution attended has been included.

    Finally, this standard allows a greater degree of flexibility since the reference period is not restricted to eight months, as in the previous standard, and can vary according to the requirements of the survey.

  • School attendance July 15, 1998 to June 19, 2011

    This was the departmental standard from July 15, 1998 to June 19, 2011.

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