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B.C. has lowest dropout rates in Canada, says C.D. Howe report

A recently released report from the C.D. Howe Institute says B.C. has the lowest high school dropout rate in the country.

Using data from the recent Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) calculations, School Dropouts: Who Are They and What Can Be Done? shows B.C.’s dropout rate has dropped from 13.3 per cent in the 1990/91-1992/93 school years to 6.2 per cent in 2007/08-2009/10. Quebec had the highest rate, with a drop from 17.4 to 11.7 per cent in the same years.

Dropout rates in Canada differed, however, by gender, where male dropout rates have continued to rise to the point that for every three females that drop out, five males drop out, a common trend in OECD countries according to the study.

Immigrants also had varying dropout rates. For example South and East Asian immigrants were below the national average, but Haitians, Portuguese, and Jamaican dropout rates were well above average. Aboriginals also had varying dropout rates, where Meitis’ 25 to 34 and 45 and older had a significant decrease in dropouts, but First Nations 25 to 34 living on reserve had a dropout rate of 50.9 per cent in 2006.

The study measured dropout rates by looking at the number of people aged 19 to 24 that had not completed high school and were not currently in an equivalency program. Data was also taken from Statistics Canada, which looked at the 25 to 34, 35 to 44, and 45 and older age groups.

Despite the positive showing for B.C., The Vancouver Sun's Janet Steffenhagen posted on her Report Card blog that the provincial government prefers its own high school completion rate measurements to the C.D. Howe data:

The B.C. Education Ministry, in addressing the drop-out issue, looks at the percentage of students who finish high school within the usual time frame, which it sets at six years. That rate has hovered around 79 cent for several years. The ministry says the high-school completion rate is a more accurate measure of the B.C. education system because it considers the success of B.C. students only.

"As with the Statistics Canada dropout rate, the rate published by the C.D. Howe Institute is a measure of education levels in the general population, including people who were educated in other provinces and countries," the ministry said in a statement.

Katie Hyslop writes about education for The Tyee.

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