The Canadian Education System

By Canadian law, all children have the right to a free education from Kindergarten until Grade 12. Although the education systems in each province and territory are managed by the provincial governments, the federal government oversees and extensively funds education across the country. This helps ensure high standards of education in all parts of the country. The school year typically runs from September until June of the following year.

Primary and secondary education

In most provinces and territories, children are able to enter Kindergarten the year they turn five. In Ontario and Quebec, children can start Kindergarten the year they turn four. Kindergarten is optional in most provinces and territories.

Across the country, most children enter Grade 1 the year they turn six. Elementary school continues until the end of Grade 8. In most parts of Canada, high school runs from Grade 9 to Grade 12. In Quebec, students attend high school until they are 16, at which point they have the option of attending a government-funded college to prepare for an academic or vocational education.

Post-secondary education

All of the Canadian provinces and territories boast some of the world’s finest post-secondary educational institutions. These offer a wide variety of programs in almost every conceivable field and level of study. Qualifications earned at Canadian universities are recognized and respected throughout the world.

Although the academic year starts in Septembers, many universities and colleges allow students to begin courses at other times of the year, including during the summer months. In addition, many continuing education programs are available to adult learners.

Education in English and French

Students can be educated in either of Canada’s official languages at all levels of school and college/university. All students attending Canadian educational institutions, including international students, can choose to study in one of these two languages.

Although most parts of Canada use English as the main instructional language, there is no shortage of French-language education, either as a first or a second language. French immersion programs are a popular choice for parents who would like their children to be bilingual. These are programs whereby English-speaking students are taught exclusively in French.

Since Quebec is a French-speaking province, students are required to be taught in French until the end of high school, unless one of the following applies:

  • One of the child’s parents attended an English-speaking elementary school in Canada
  • The child or his/her siblings have been taught primarily in English-speaking elementary or high schools in Canada
  • One of the child’s parents attended school in Quebec after August 26, 1977 and would have been eligible for English instruction
  • One of the child’s parents is temporarily in Quebec on a work or study permit

Private and faith-based education

Private educational institutions are available at all levels of schooling. These schools are not funded by the government, but they are required to adhere to provincial and federal standards of education.

Faith-based education is also available at all levels of schooling. In some cases, this is funded by the government.

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