Canadian Education System


The Canadian education system is amongst the most developed in the world. The pillars of this system are the government-funded free education till Grade 12 and a provincial system of education. There are public as well as private schools.

The Provincial System

In the provincial education system of Canada, education is the responsibility of each province or state. The courses and methodologies also differ from state to state.

One peculiar feature of this system is that a student has to attend a school in his own province.

Whereas each province is further divided into districts. In each district, there are district schools. These governs and decides policies for the schools under them.

Every address has a list of local schools the student can choose from. The idea behind this is that the kid spends less time on travel and more time in studies and extracurricular activities. It is very difficult to get admission in a school outside this established list.

Thus, even though education is free in public schools, the property rates are high where schools are of outstanding quality. Students are permitted for the cross-provincial transfer in special cases.


Canada has English and French as its official languages, thus education is available in both.

It is mandatory for kids to attend school until the age of 16, and even 18 in certain provinces.

Extracurricular and sports activities are allowed after school hours.

Also, the upper limit of every class is 40 to provide specialized attention to every child.

An academic year starts in September and continues till the next June.

A record is maintained for every child the moment he/she enters the school. This tracks his performance throughout his schooling years.

The Grading system is as follows:

A: Excellent – 90 to 100
B: Good – 80 to 89
C: Average or fair – 70 to 79
D: Poor – 60 to 69
F: Fail – Below 60

The grading criteria vary between schools, making it difficult to have a standardized grading system.

Private schools

Around 7% of Canadian students attend private schools. The perks of these schools are that they offer a choice. Schools affiliated with specific religious groups, single-sex schools, schools for kids with disabilities as well as schools for gifted minds. The private schools are more rigorous than public schools as they are more focused on getting the kids into Canadian universities.


It isn’t mandatory for kids to attend school till the age of 5, except in certain provinces like Ontario and Quebec that may require schooling to start from the age of 4. However, if parents wish, they can enroll their kids in pre-school or nursery between the ages of 2-5. These are not a part of public schools and are provided by private schools. Kids with parents who don’t speak English generally send their kids to pre-school to develop the kid’s early English and cultural immersion.

Types of pre-school educational institutes in Canada

Co-operative school: This costs the least. Here, parents volunteer as professional teachers’ aides.

Church-affiliated schools: They are generally affiliated to specific religious centers and may include religious education. The kids in these schools are not required to follow the same religion as that of the school.

Private schools: These are the most expensive. They can range from considerably from small home-based establishments to large custom-made institutes.

Many private nursery schools follow the Montessori Method of teaching, which was started by Dr. Maria Montessori. This type of education revolves around the belief that every child is unique and has his specific interests, needs, and growth patterns.

Primary education

This is also called Elementary education and spans from ages 6-11 i.e. Grade 1-6. Generally, students have one teacher who teaches all subjects throughout this period.

The school timings are between 8 am to 3 pm with an hour lunch break and 15 minutes break after every 40-45 minute lecture. The students have a 5-day study week.

The focus area during this phase is building literacy and numerical skills.

Subjects taught: mathematics, reading, science, language arts, physical education, music, social studies, and art. Recently, early language immersion programs have started. Certain schools provide French and other languages as optional.

Students are tested to be promoted to the next year and may need to repeat the year due to failure. Students who exceed expectations are allowed to skip grades.

Secondary Education

This spans from the ages 12-18 i.e. Grade 7-12. This is also called the High school.  Junior High school (Grade 7-9) and Senior High school (Grade 10-12) are two sub-parts of high school.

Here different subjects are taken by different specialized teachers.

Even though the subject matter stays more or less the same as Primary education, it gets more detailed and the grading is made more stringent.

In Senior High school, the subjects become more specific. For instance, science is further divided into Physics, Biology, and Chemistry. The focus is on developing more specialized knowledge.

At the end of High School, all students have to appear for the common Provincial Exam conducted by their respective provinces. Failing this is considered as a taboo and significantly reduces job opportunities and a chance to lead a good life.

When the students reach Grade 9, they get career guidance. And they are thus able to choose their subjects accordingly. Such guidance continues until the student enters college.

Secondary schools in Canada may specialize in vocational training that can prepare the students for universities or community colleges.

Vocational training is provided in four broad areas:

  1. Trade and Industrial education: Students are trained in mechanics, building, and manufacturing.
  2. Agriculture: this trains them in managing a farm.
  3. Business education which trains students in the field of business.
  4. Home management which trains students in-home care, taking care of the sick and child care.

Curriculum is divided into two categories. The first category is ‘academic’/ ‘advanced’. This prepares students for university. The next category is ‘general/applied’. This prepares students for a trade school or a community college. 

Subjects taught: the Arts, Mathematics, Science, Canada and the world, English, French, computer studies, business studies, native languages, guidance, and career education, technological education, Physical Education, etc.

In addition to certain mandatory subjects, students have the option to choose elective subjects that may help them in the future.

Students in High school have to appear for the General Educational Development (GED) Diploma, which is an entrance exam for admission to a Canadian university.

Post-Secondary Education

This is again a provincial responsibility. However, private institutions also offer their programs.

The academic year is divided into two semesters. Many colleges offer the third trimester too. As the academic year runs all year round, students are provided with multiple entry points during the year.

The post-secondary Canadian colleges have the right to grant academic credentials such as degrees and diplomas. Generally, universities give degrees such as bachelor’s, masters or doctorate degrees in various fields such as Arts, Sciences, Medicine, Law, etc. A bachelor’s degree takes another four years of studies. For master and doctorates, students again have to appear for their respective exams. A Master’s program takes 2 more years and a Doctorate program takes 3-5 more years of studies along with research.

On the other hand, colleges, which generally offer vocational courses, grant certificates, and diplomas. Also, certain colleges grant degrees in applied arts which are considered equivalent to university degrees.

Canadian universities offer more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Further, a “license to practice” is also required in Canada for regulated professions like education, law, medicine, and social work.

Different types of institutions and the certifications offered by them:

1. University: Students can apply for an undergraduate degree, postgraduate certificate, diploma and degree, professional degrees and doctorate.

2. University colleges: Programs such as university transfer programs and diploma.

3. Community colleges: Students may receive a diploma, certificate, undergraduate degree, associate degree and a postgraduate diploma in community colleges.

4. Career and technical colleges: Certificate and diploma are offered for technical education.

Adult Education and Skills Development

Many groups, institutions, governments deliver adult education and skill development programs in Canada.

Certain provinces have established specialized adult learning centers.

Some of these focus on groups like the Indigenous communities, rural populace, displaced laborers, immigrants, and those with low literacy.



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