International 

Education and Skills: Data Definitions and Sources

High school completion rate

2010 data.

This indicator measures the percentage of the population aged 25 to 64 that has graduated from high school.

Source: OECD, Education at a Glance 2012, Paris: OECD, 2012.

College completion

2010 data.

This indicator measures the percentage of the population aged 25 to 64 years that has attained tertiary-type B education. Tertiary-type B programs are typically shorter than those of tertiary-type A and focus on practical, technical, or occupational skills for direct entry into the labour market, although some theoretical foundations may be covered in the respective programs. They have a minimum duration of two years’ full-time equivalent at the tertiary level.

Source: OECD, Education at a Glance 2012, Paris: OECD, 2012.

University completion

2010 data.

This indicator measures the percentage of the population aged 25 to 64 years that has attained tertiary-type A education and advanced research programs. Tertiary-type A programs are largely theory-based and are designed to provide sufficient qualifications for entry to advanced research programs and professions with high skill requirements, such as medicine, dentistry, or architecture. Tertiary-type A programs have a minimum cumulative theoretical duration (at tertiary level) of three years’ full-time equivalent, although they typically last four or more years. These programs are not offered exclusively at universities. Conversely, not all programs nationally recognized as university programs fulfill the criteria to be classified as tertiary-type A. Tertiary-type A programs include second degree programs such as the American Master.

Source: OECD, Education at a Glance 2012, Paris: OECD, 2012.

PhD graduates

2010 data.

This indicator measures the number of advanced research program graduates per 100,000 population aged 25 to 29.

Source: OECD.Stat.

Science, math, computer science, and engineering graduates

2010 data for all countries except France, 2009.

This indicator measures the proportion of science, math, computing, and engineering graduates in the total number of graduates from all fields of study. Science graduates include graduates from the fields of life sciences and physical sciences.

Source: OECD.Stat.

Student with low-level reading skills

2009 data.

This indicator measures the percentage of 15-year-old students at level 2 proficiency and below on the reading section of the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test. Student scores in reading are grouped into six proficiency levels, with level 6 representing the highest scores (and hence the most difficult tasks) and level 1 the lowest scores (and hence the easiest tasks).

Source: OECD, PISA 2009 Results: What Students Know and Can Do: Student Performance in Reading, Mathematics and Science. Paris: OECD, 2010.

Students with high-level reading skills

2009 data.

This indicator measures the percentage of 15-year-old students at level 4 and above proficiency on PISA’s reading test. Student scores in reading are grouped into six proficiency levels, with level 6 representing the highest scores (and hence the most difficult tasks) and level 1 the lowest scores (and hence the easiest tasks).

Source: OECD, PISA 2009 Results: What Students Know and Can Do: Student Performance in Reading, Mathematics and Science. Paris: OECD, 2010.

Students with low-level math skills

2009 data.

This indicator measures the percentage of 15-year-old students at level 1 proficiency and below on PISA’s mathematics scale. Student scores in mathematics are grouped into six proficiency levels, with level 6 representing the highest scores (and hence the most difficult tasks) and level 1 the lowest scores (and hence the easiest tasks).

Source: OECD, PISA 2009 Results: What Students Know and Can Do: Student Performance in Reading, Mathematics and Science. Paris: OECD, 2010

Students with high-level math skills

2009 data.

This indicator measures the percentage of 15-year-old students at levels 5 and 6 proficiency on PISA’s mathematics scale. Student scores in mathematics are grouped into six proficiency levels, with level 6 representing the highest scores (and hence the most difficult tasks) and level 1 the lowest scores (and hence the easiest tasks).

Source: OECD, PISA 2009 Results: What Students Know and Can Do: Student Performance in Reading, Mathematics and Science. Paris: OECD, 2010.

Students with low-level science skills

2009 data.

This indicator measures the percentage of 15-year-old students at level 1 proficiency and below on PISA’s science scale. Student scores in science are grouped into six proficiency levels, with level 6 representing the highest scores (and hence the most difficult tasks) and level 1 the lowest scores (and hence the easiest tasks).

Source: OECD, PISA 2009 Results: What Students Know and Can Do: Student Performance in Reading, Mathematics and Science. Paris: OECD, 2010.

Students with high-level science skills

2009 data.

This indicator measures the percentage of 15-year-old students at levels 5 and 6 proficiency on PISA’s science scale. Student scores in science are grouped into six proficiency levels, with level 6 representing the highest scores (and hence the most difficult tasks) and level 1 the lowest scores (and hence the easiest tasks).

Source: OECD, PISA 2009 Results: What Students Know and Can Do: Student Performance in Reading, Mathematics and Science. Paris: OECD, 2010.

Adults with low-level literacy

Document and Prose literacy: 2003 data for Canada, Italy, Norway, Switzerland and the United States; 1994–98 data for all other countries. Quantitative literacy: 1994–98 data.

This indicator measures the percentage of the population with literacy skills below level 3. The indicator is an average of the proportion of the population below level 3 for three types of literacy skills: document, prose, and quantitative.

Document literacy: The knowledge and skills required to locate and use information contained in various formats, including job applications, payroll forms, transportation schedules, maps, tables, and charts.

Prose literacy: The knowledge and skills needed to understand and use information from texts including editorials, news stories, brochures, and instruction manuals.

Quantitative literacy: The knowledge and skills required to apply arithmetic operations—either alone or sequentially—to numbers embedded in printed materials, such as balancing a chequebook, figuring out a tip, completing an order form, or determining the amount of interest on a loan from an advertisement.

Sources: Statistics Canada and OECD, Learning a Living—First Results of the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey. Ottawa and Paris: Minister of Industry and OECD, 2005; OECD and Statistics Canada, Literacy in the Information Age: Final Report of the International Adult Literacy Survey. Paris and Ottawa: OECD and Minister of Industry, 2000.

Adults with high-level literacy

Document and Prose literacy: 2003 data for Canada, Italy, Norway, Switzerland and the United States; 1994–98 data for all other countries. Quantitative literacy: 1994–98 data.

This indicator measures the percentage of the population with literacy skills at levels 4 and 5. The indicator is an average of the proportion of the population at levels 4 and 5 for three types of literacy skills: document, prose, and quantitative.

Document literacy: The knowledge and skills required to locate and use information contained in various formats, including job applications, payroll forms, transportation schedules, maps, tables, and charts.

Prose literacy: The knowledge and skills needed to understand and use information from texts including editorials, news stories, brochures, and instruction manuals.

Quantitative literacy: The knowledge and skills required to apply arithmetic operations—either alone or sequentially—to numbers embedded in printed materials, such as balancing a chequebook, figuring out a tip, completing an order form, or determining the amount of interest on a loan from an advertisement.

Sources: Statistics Canada and OECD, Learning a Living—First Results of the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey. Ottawa and Paris: Minister of Industry and OECD, 2005; OECD and Statistics Canada, Literacy in the Information Age: Final Report of the International Adult Literacy Survey. Paris and Ottawa: OECD and Minister of Industry, 2000.

Performance of disadvantaged schools

2009 data.

The difference in reading test scores between 15-year-old students in the most and least disadvantaged schools. Disadvantaged schools are defined as schools in which the average socio-economic background of students is below the national average. One measure used by the OECD to estimate the socio-economic background of a school’s student body is to look at the proportion of students with low-educated mothers (i.e., mothers without a high school education) and high-educated mothers (i.e., mothers with tertiary education). Schools with a high proportion of students with low-educated mothers are considered to be disadvantaged.

The reading test used for this report card is from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international assessment of the skills and knowledge of 15 year olds, coordinated by the OECD.

Source: OECD, Education at a Glance 2012. Paris: OECD, 2012.

Participation in non-formal job-related education

2009 data for Switzerland; 2008 data for Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, and the Netherlands; 2007 data for Australia, Austria, Germany, Japan, and Norway; 2006 data for Finland, France, and the United Kingdom; 2005 data for Sweden and the United States.

Share of adults age 25 to 64 who participated in non-formal job-related education.

Source: OECD, Education at a Glance 2012. Paris: OECD, 2012.

Equity in learning outcomes

2009 data.

The absolute value of the gap in reading scores between Canadian-born students who speak the language of the test at home and Canadian-born second-generation students who do not speak the language of the test at home.

The reading test used for this report card is from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international assessment of the skills and knowledge of 15 year olds, coordinated by the OECD.

Source: OECD, PISA 2009 Results: Overcoming Social Background: Equity in Learning Opportunities and Outcomes (Volume 2). Paris: OECD, 2011.

Foreign student index

2010 data.

The country share of the world’s foreign tertiary students divided by country share of the world’s total tertiary students. The index measures a country’s share of the global market for higher education adjusted to account for the relative size of its higher education system.

Sources: OECD, Education at a Glance 2012. Paris: OECD, 2012; UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

Gender gap in tertiary attainment

2010 data.

The absolute value of the difference between the ratio of men to women with tertiary education and the ratio of men to women in the overall population. Tertiary education includes college and university education.

Source: OECD, Education at a Glance 2012. Paris: OECD, 2012

Return on investment in post-secondary education, men

2008 data for all countries except Australia (2005), Belgium (2005), and Japan (2007). Data were not available for Switzerland.

The net present value of the total private and public returns for a man who gets a college or university education (tertiary education) as part of initial education.

Source: OECD, Education at a Glance 2012. Paris: OECD, 2012.

Return on investment in post-secondary education, women

2008 data for all countries except Australia (2005), Belgium (2005), and Japan (2007). Data were not available for Switzerland.

The net present value of the total private and public returns for a woman who gets a college or university education (tertiary education) as part of initial education.

Source: OECD, Education at a Glance 2012. Paris: OECD, 2012.