Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS)

Industrial Summary

Elementary and Secondary Schools

(NAICS 6111)

Elementary and secondary schools comprise establishments primarily engaged in providing academic courses that consist of a basic preparatory education, from kindergarten to grade 12. They employed 782,300 workers in 2018, with women accounting for 75% of the workforce. Employment is distributed proportionately to population: 39% in Ontario, 23% in Quebec, 13% in Alberta, 11% in British Columbia, and 14% in the remaining provinces. Key occupations (4-digit NOC) include:

  • Elementary school and kindergarten teachers (4032)
  • Elementary and secondary school teacher assistants (4413)
  • Secondary school teachers (4031)
  • School principals and administrators of elementary and secondary education (0422)
  • Early childhood educators and assistants (4214)
  • Educational counsellors (4033)
  • Education policy researchers, consultants and program officers (4166)
  • Audiologists and speech-language pathologists (3141)
  • Instructors of persons with disabilities (4215)
  • Library and public archive technicians (5211)
  • *Also include a significant number of Bus drivers (7512).

Economic activity in elementary and secondary schools is mainly driven by demographic trends in population aged 5 to 17 and particularly sensitive to government expenditures in education. Growth in output and employment was relatively modest over the past ten years, as positive growth in population aged 5 to 11 was accompanied by negative growth in population aged 12 to 17. Indeed, during that period, the millennial generation, the children of the baby boomers, slowly started to exit secondary school to attend college or university or to seek employment. Furthermore, in the afterwards of the 2008-2009 recession, when fiscal constraints for most governments were stretched to the limit, many provinces cut back expenditure budgets on education, including elementary and secondary schools. Many programs and services to students were affected and several school boards were forced to reduce operation costs and let teachers and teacher assistants go. Those factors resulted in anemic output growth and notable employment declines in elementary and secondary schools from 2009 to 2011, before returning to positive growth in subsequent years when provincial governments resumed spending on education, in line with the gradual improvement in public finances and the end of austerity measures. On average, real GDP increased at an annual rate of 1.0% over the period 2009-2018, compared to 0.7% for employment. This means that productivity growth accounted for about one-third of output growth, although the concept and measurement of productivity in educational services may differ from the other sectors of the economy where goods and services are traded and more easily valued in monetary terms. For example, the introduction of more computers in the classroom may improve the educational experience of students, but this development may not necessarily show up in the productivity figures because the number of teachers does not necessarily adjust to the growing use of technology.

Over the period 2019-2028, output and employment growth in elementary and secondary schools is projected to accelerate significantly from the previous ten years, primarily reflecting much stronger gains in population aged 5 to 17, as the children of the millennial generation will begin to reach the age where they start primary school. More precisely, faster growth in population aged 5 to 11 and renewed growth in population aged 12 to 17 are expected to boost output and employment in both elementary and secondary schools. The demographic outlook assumes that Canada will progressively increase the number of immigrants entering the country, with the primary goal of reuniting families, which could potentially raise the number of immigrants’ children entering the primary and secondary school systems. That said, population aging will continue to erode the federal and provincial tax bases, while simultaneously putting further pressures on the health care system, limiting the ability of governments to expand expenditures in educational services. The resulting pace of growth in elementary and secondary schools’ real GDP and employment is projected to average 1.6% and 0.9% per year respectively over the 2019-2028 horizon, which is nevertheless a notable improvement from the previous decade. Productivity is expected to account for an increasing share of output growth, supported by the increasing use of technology and the Internet. For example, with the use of learning management systems (LMS), students can access online resources to get assistance beyond the physical reach of their teacher. For students who need to spend more time practicing a concept, online exercises can also help them work at their own pace and still keep up with their peers. The growing use of educational tablets in the K-12 schooling system (i.e. from kindergarten to 12th grade) has brought mobility to the classroom while increasing productivity and improving learning. Electronic documents, email instead of printed memos, virtual labs, virtual field trips, electronic textbooks, and free online resources help schools save money and provide students with more efficient educational experiences. Teachers can also utilize technology to access virtual expert improvement courses (most are free) and personal learning networks (PLN) to discover resources, share thoughts, and get support from their colleagues.

Real GDP and Employment Growth Rates in Elementary and Secondary Schools

Figure showing the annual average growth rates of real GDP and employment over the periods 2009-2018 and 2019-2028 for the industry of elementary and secondary schools. The data is shown on the table following this figure

Sources: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS industrial projections.

Text Version of Figure Real GDP and Employment Growth Rates in Elementary and Secondary Schools (%, annual average)
  Real GDP Employment
2009-2018 1.0 0.7
2019-2028 1.6 0.9

Sources: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS industrial projections.

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