Dictionary, Census of Population, 2016
School attendance

Release date: May 3, 2017 Updated on: November 29, 2017


'School attendance' refers to whether a person attended, either full-time or part-time, any accredited educational institution or program during all or part of a specified reference period. The person may have attended more than one educational institution or have been enrolled in more than one program.

Attendance is counted only for courses which could be used as credits towards a certificate, diploma or degree from an educational institution or program such as an elementary school, secondary school (high school), registered apprenticeship program, trade school, college, CEGEP or university. Educational institutions also include seminaries, schools of nursing, private business schools, private or public trade schools, institutes of technology, vocational schools, and schools for people who are deaf or blind. Attendance includes participation in courses or programs offered over the Internet, through correspondence and by other non-traditional methods of delivery.

Attendance does not include training received from an employer unless it could be used as credit towards a certificate, diploma or degree from an accredited educational institution. A person is considered to have attended an educational institution if they were enrolled during the reference period but were absent, for example, due to illness.

This variable collects information on school attendance at any time during the nine-month period between September 2015 and May 10, 2016. Individuals were asked to identify all types of schools attended. There was an explicit instruction to include distance learning for credit. In the 2006 Census and the 2011 National Household Survey, this variable was called 'Attendance at School'; the name was changed to 'School attendance' in the 2016 Census in order to comply with the standard definitions, but the variable is measured in the same way. Please note that the French name 'Fréquentation scolaire' did not change.

This variable is reported for persons aged 15 years and over in private households.

When interpreting school attendance in connection with geography, users are advised that the estimates for school attendance should not be interpreted as the number/proportion of students who attended school while residing in the given geography, due to differences in where the student is counted on Census Day. Like all respondents, students are enumerated at their usual place of residence on Census Day, which may or may not correspond to the geography in which they resided while attending school. For example, students who return to live with their parents during the year are instructed to be enumerated at their parents' address.

Users are advised to consult data quality comments for this variable, available in the Education Reference Guide, Census of Population, 2016.

Statistical unit(s)



Status of school attendance
Institution of school attendance

Reported in

2016 (25% sample); 2011Note 1 (30% sample); 2006, 2001, 1996, 1991 and 1981 (20% sample). For availability prior to 1981, please refer to Appendix 2.0.

Reported for

Population aged 15 years and over in private households

Question number(s)

Direct variable: Question 29


'No, did not attend school at any time since September 2015'; or one or more than one of the following responses: 'Yes, attended elementary, junior high school or high school'; 'Yes, attended trade school, business school, community college, technical institute, CEGEP or other non-university institution'; 'Yes, attended university.'


This variable is useful in the analysis of participation in education for specific target populations such as Aboriginal people, recent immigrants, youth (aged 15 years and over), women and working adults.


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