High-school dropout rates tumble across Canada

Published on the CanWest News Service wire, in the National Post (pg. A10), the Ottawa Citizen (pg. A7), the Regina Leader-Post (pg. A3), the Saskatoon StarPhoenix (pg. C10), the Vancouver Sun (pg. A4), and the Victoria Times Colonist (pg. A7).
Dec. 17 2005

OTTAWA – High-school dropout rates across Canada have declined significantly since the early 1990s, with the most dramatic changes happening in the Atlantic provinces, where the numbers fell from the highest in the country to among the lowest, a Statistics Canada report said Friday.

It shows that the overall dropout rate has decreased to 9.8 per cent from 16.7 per cent in the past 25 years. The numbers are based on the percentage of people aged 20 to 24 who are not attending school and who have not graduated from high school.

This age group is used to avoid including teenage students who are taking breaks from school and may be returning shortly to their studies, says Statistics Canada analyst Geoff Bowlby.

Education experts credit the improvements to a focus on programs which show students how much education is needed if they want to succeed in their future careers.

“A lot of students can’t see the point of school and don’t see how it relates to job opportunities.They don’t have a sense of hope,” says Philip Connolly, manager of policy and planning for the Eastern school district in Prince Edward Island.

“We spend a lot of time creating programs and talking to parents of students who are at risk of dropping out.”

Prince Edward Island has experienced a huge improvement in dropout numbers, Bowlby says, falling to 9.7 per cent from 19.1 per cent in the early ’90s.

That improvement is second only to Newfoundland and Labrador, which saw its dropout rates falling to eight per cent from 20 per cent.

The increase in the number of parents with higher education may also be a factor in the declining numbers, says Paul Cappon, president of the Canadian Council on Learning.

“Today’s parents have a better concept of the importance of schooling than the last generation, and there is a greater emphasis on learning,” he says.

However, the report indicates that dropout rates remain quite high in rural areas at 16.4 per cent, compared to an average of 9.2 per cent in urban areas.

“As the job opportunities are mostly in urban centres, rural students may not see the direct connection between their education and their work,” says Cappon.

The rural-urban divide is especially pronounced in Alberta, where the high- school dropout rate is 21.3 per cent in rural areas and 9.9 per cent in the cities.

Cappon says this is because dropouts in Alberta still have about a 69 per cent chance of getting a job in the oil industry even without a Grade 12 diploma.

He adds that while the decline in dropout rates is a good sign, the numbers can be further improved by providing students with opportunities to participate in school-to-work programs and apprenticeships.


Research looks at a subset of the 20 to 24-year-old population: those who had dropped out of high school. Measurements contrast two periods: the school years 1990-91 to 1992-93 and 2002-03 to 2004-05. Figures shown are a yearly average for each period. B.C.’s rate fell by nearly half and remains nation’s lowest.

90-93 02-05

Canada 15.7% 10.1%

British Columbia 13.3% 7.5%

Alberta 15.8% 12.0%

Saskatchewan 16.3% 10.7%

Manitoba 16.1% 13.0%

Ontario 14.7% 9.1%

Quebec 17.4% 11.9%

New Brunswick 15.4% 9.2%

Nova Scotia 17.9% 9.3%

Prince Edward Isl. 19.1% 9.7%

Nfld. & Labrador 20.0% 8.0%

Source: Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey

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