Education System in Canada

Probably, you know that Canada is one of the most educated countries in the world. A report in 2015 showed that 90 percent of people in Canada aged 25 to 64 had at least completed high school, and 66 percent had obtained a post-secondary educational credential.


Canada is the second largest country in the world by area and it is declared one of the developed countries by the UNDP, World Bank and other top organisations. The country, Canada is home to some of the world’s top educational institutions. You might have known that Canada has a strong and well-funded system of public education, largely managed provincially. Consequently, some aspects of the education system can vary between provinces. However, as education is overseen by the federal government, the standard of education remains consistently high throughout the country.

Canada has both a public and private education system. Education department of the Canadian government heavily subsidizes education from kindergarten through to the post-secondary level; the government of Canada spends almost six percent of its GDP on education. Their spendings in the sector of education makes us understand that Canada spends proportionately more on education than the average among OECD countries.

Education system in Canada is divided into three levels:

  1. Primary

  2. Secondary

  3. Post-secondary

The government of Canada does not ignore religious education, it has included religious education in all the three levels.

From what age do Canadian children go to school?

As Education is a basic need for a human being, primary education is a must for all of the children. When a child turns five years old he/she should be admitted to a school. Education in Canada is available to children the year they turn five but states like Ontario and Quebec, children have to go to school from the time they turn 4 years of their age. Depending on the provinces or the states, kindergarten may be optional.

Primary Education

Primary education is also known as elementary school in canada. The level of primary education runs from Kindergarten or Grade 1 (ages six to seven) and runs through to Grade 8 (ages 13 to 14). The academic calendar of Canada starts in September and ends in June. Yes, the school year of Canada normally runs from September through to the following June. 

Secondary Education

Secondary education in Canada is often called High School Education. The secondary or high school level runs from Grade 9 to Grade 12. Grade 9 of secondary level normally starts when a child turns 14 or 15 and they engage in their high school learning till 17 or 18. Ontario has a Grade 12+. In Quebec, students attend high school until the age of 16. They may then proceed to CEGEP, a publicly-funded two-year college where students may pursue either a university preparation diploma, or a vocational diploma.

Post-secondary Education

Canada has a wide network of colleges and universities, offering some of the best post-secondary education worldwide. 

Canada has many internationally recognized university programs located in both urban and rural regions throughout the country. Degrees awarded from Canadian universities are generally recognized as equivalent to those from other universities worldwide.

The university year usually runs from September to April or May, and consists of two semesters, or terms. Many post-secondary institutions offer the option of taking courses in a third semester during the summer months. Generally speaking, students may begin a study program at a university in September (in most cases), or in January.

College programs may run throughout the year, and students may be able to begin a course at various points during the year.

Education in English and French

International students may choose to study in either one of Canada's two official languages. Some institutions may offer instruction in both languages, although students do not need to be fluent in both languages to attend school at any level in Canada.

Across most of Canada, the main language of school-level education is English. However, French-language education is widely available throughout the country. Regardless of the main language of instruction, French or English as a second language is generally taught from an early age.

In Quebec, students are generally required to attend school in French until the end of high school. There are some exceptions under which a child may obtain a certificate of eligibility to receive instruction in English:

  • If a child’s mother or father pursued elementary studies in English in Canada;

  • If a child, or a child’s sibling/s, has received the major part of their elementary or secondary school instruction in English in Canada (if the child’s mother or father is a Canadian citizen);

  • If a child’s mother or father attended school in Québec after August 26, 1977, and could have been declared eligible for instruction in English at that time (if the child’s mother or father is a Canadian citizen).

In addition, children whose parents are in Quebec temporarily (for example, on a work or study permit), may attend school in English.

However, generally speaking, when newcomers to Canada settle in Quebec, their children are required to attend public school in French. However, private schooling options in English may be available.

(Information is collected from CANADA VISA and other sources.)

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