Just under 5.1 million students were enrolled in publicly funded elementary and secondary schools in Canada during the academic year 2008/2009, down 0.5% from the previous year.
This was the lowest level since 1998/1999 when data for the Elementary-Secondary Education Survey were first collected. Enrolment peaked at nearly 5.4 million students in 2001/2002.
Since the peak, enrolment has declined in every province and territory except Alberta and Nunavut. The largest declines were in the Atlantic region, followed by the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. Similarly, in the year between 2007/2008 and 2008/2009, enrolment also fell in all jurisdictions except Alberta and Nunavut.
Enrolment in second-language immersion programs in public elementary and secondary schools has increased steadily. In 2008/2009, more than 317,000 students were enrolled in a second-language immersion program, up 2.1% from 2007/2008 and 13.3% since 2002/2003.
Enrolment in special needs education has also risen. More than 583,000 students were receiving partial or full-time special needs education in 2008/2009, up 3.2% from 2007/2008. (These data exclude the Yukon and Nunavut).
More than 341,000 students graduated from public secondary schools in 2008/2009, a 3.3% increase from the previous year.
The graduation rate for publicly funded high schools in 2008/2009 was 74.8%, up from 71.8% in 2007/2008. (The graduation rate is calculated by dividing the number of graduates from publicly funded high schools by the average of the population aged 17 and 18. It should not be used to infer a dropout rate.)
Nationally, the public high school graduation rate was higher for females (77.4%) than for males (72.3%).
Total expenditures in Canada's elementary and secondary schools amounted to $55.0 billion in 2008/2009, up 7.1% from 2007/2008. For the same time period, the inflation rate was 2.3%. Since the academic year of 2002/2003, spending has risen by 32.8%, more than double the rate of inflation of 14.1% as measured by the Consumer Price Index.
In 2008/2009, the average cost to educate a student for one year in Canada amounted to $11,614, up 40.9% from $8,244 in 2002/2003. The average includes all students at the elementary, secondary, adult and vocational levels.
Provincially, the annual cost per student in 2008/2009 ranged from $12,765 in Alberta to $10,210 in Prince Edward Island.
Part of the increase in costs per student is explained by the fact that the number of educators (full-time equivalent) increased for the fifth consecutive year, even as enrolments declined. In 2008/2009, there were 339,000 educators in Canada, up 0.9% from the previous year.
Between 2002/2003 and 2008/2009, the number of educators aged 29 or younger rose 7.7% to 56,800, while the number of those aged 60 and above more than doubled to 14,700.