Good and bad news about dropping out of school

I have good news and bad news about high school dropouts in Quebec.


Do you remember the big debate that the Institut du Québec (IdQ) study sparked in spring 2018? But yeah, the study that said Quebec had been standing still for ten years, that it had a big gap with Ontario, and that it had dramatic differences between boys and girls?

Well, since that debate, Statistics Canada has extensively revised its high school graduation data using what it now calls “the true cohort method” (1). The new results, released on December 10, are very different.

Recall that the IdQ study found that Quebec has had a stagnant graduation rate of 64% for several years, 20 points lower than Ontario. This graduation rate – in some ways the opposite of the dropout rate – affected students in the public sector who were successful in normal times (five years).

Then the IdQ reported on the catastrophic gap between boys' and girls' graduation rates (14 points), a phenomenon unique to Canada (in Ontario, the study found a 5-point gap).

First good news with Statistics Canada's revised numbers: Quebec's graduation rate in normal times using the “real cohort” method is closer to 75% in 2017 (most recent numbers available). This rate, which includes the private sector, is 11 points higher than the rate published by the IdQ (whose data also comes from Statistics Canada).

If you include students who need up to two more years to complete high school, the rate rises to 83%. In summary, the dropout rate for young people is around 17%.

> Consult the main table of the study

> Consult the explanations underlying the preparation of the study

This rate of 83% after seven years of secondary school will not stagnate for this cohort of students even afterwards. The graduation rate will continue to increase over time, reflecting the longer progress of some students. For example, for those who attended high school in the 2000s, Statistics Canada estimates that the proportion of high school graduates today is 91% (2).

> View completion rate statistics

Another good news in the revised figures: the aforementioned rate of 75% in 2017 after five years has not stagnated in recent years. This rate was 71% in 2014, 72% in 2015 and 74% in 2016. In short, there is constant evolution.

Gap between boys and girls

Now the pot. The new numbers confirm one of the IdQ's main bad news, namely the very large gap between boys' and girls' graduation rates. In 2017, 80% of girls earned their degree in five years, compared to just 69% of boys, a difference of 11 points.

In Ontario this gap between boys and girls is 7 points, in New Brunswick it is 5 points and in British Columbia it is 4 points. The gap between Quebec and the other provinces is no longer catastrophic, but it is still very large, far too large.

More bad news: Quebec continues to lag behind the other provinces. After seven years, the graduation rate in Quebec is 83%, the lowest rate in Canada. That's 10 points less than Ontario (93%) and 4 points less than New Brunswick (87%).

On this subject, it must be said that the Statistics Canada study now goes to the trouble of including a note in its study that calls for caution when making comparisons. This review is a direct result of the 2018 debate, which shows that our debates are not useless.

“Academic trajectories, passing grades and subject requirements, as well as the student populations studied, may vary from province to province,” writes Statistics Canada.

For example: in Quebec the pass mark for courses is 60%, while elsewhere in Canada it is 50%.

Another example: When given the same reading, science or math test, 15-year-old Quebec students perform significantly better than New Brunswickers or Manitobans, whose degrees are nevertheless higher.

More specifically, 67% of students in Quebec are at level 3 or higher in reading, significantly higher than students in New Brunswick (54%), Manitoba (56%), or Saskatchewan (58%). In mathematics, the gap in favor of Quebec is even larger. Obviously, the barrier to obtaining your diploma is higher in Quebec.

However, students from Ontario and Alberta also excel in PISA tests and their graduation rates are much higher than in Quebec, particularly for boys. In addition, in normal times their diplomas require six years of study, in Quebec it is five.

In short, the Quebec graduation does not resemble the disaster that the IdQ represented in 2018 if one takes into account the private sector, which has absorbed a large proportion of students in recent years (3). And it's not easy to compare the financial statements of one province with another.

However, the IdQ was right about the very large gap between boys and girls in Quebec. The weakness of boys must be THE priority of the Ministry of Education in this regard.

1. Statistics Canada now determines rates by tracking cohorts of students over time (longitudinal data). This is the actual graduation of groups of students who are monitored five to seven years after they enter secondary school. Previously, the organization had to create a synthetic cohort by dividing the number of graduates aged 16 to 19 from a given year by the number of registrations a few years earlier, with an adjustment to account for deaths and migration flows.

2. Proportion of secondary school graduates among those aged 25 to 34 in 2018.

3. The proportion of private school students has stabilized for three years at the beginning of secondary school.

Juliet Ingram

Total web buff. Student. Tv enthusiast. Evil thinker. Travelaholic. Proud bacon guru.

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