Canada's education system

Canada's education system

Canada’s education system

An Overview of Canada’s education system

Canada’s public education system is well-resourced and is mostly administrated at the provincial level. Due to this, the educational system in each province can differ. Despite this, the level of education is uniform across the country since the federal government oversees education. Private and public education systems coexist in Canada.

Pre-kindergarten through post-secondary education receives extensive government subsidies in Canada, with an average expenditure of about 6% of GDP. Based on this, Canada spends more on education than other OECD nations.

Canada’s education system is divided into three categories:

  • Primary
  • Secondary and;
  • Post-Secondary

Private education as well as other options, such as religious schools, are available at all three levels. 

The average age at which Canadian children enter school is five (except in Ontario and Quebec, where they can begin school a year earlier). Depending on your province, kindergarten may or may not be compulsory. It is important to note that homeschooling, which is legal across Canada, may have different requirements than those shown in the table below.

Province  Mandatory education age 
Prince Edward Island  Five to 16 
Alberta  Six to 16 
Saskatchewan  Seven to 16 
Manitoba  Seven to 18 
Newfoundland  Six to 16 
Nova Scotia  Five to 16 
New Brunswick  Five to 18 
Ontario  Six to 18 
Quebec  Six to 16 
Yukon  Six to 16 
British Columbia  Six to 16 
Northwest Territories  Five to 18 

Primary education

Grades 6 to 8, also called an elementary school, are taught between Kindergarten or Grade 1 (ages 6 to 7) and Grade 8 (ages 13 to 14). Typically, it starts in September and lasts until June.

Secondary education

A high school student enters Grade 9 (age 14-15) or Grade 12 (age 17-18) in this level. A Grade 12+ curriculum is available in the Canadian province of Ontario. High school in Quebec lasts until the age of sixteen. As a result, students can earn a vocational or university-preparatory diploma at CEGEP, a two-year public college.

Post-Secondary Education

Numerous universities and colleges in Canada offer post-secondary education.

Let’s learn more about post-secondary education in Canada

A number of internationally renowned university programs are located in both urban and rural areas of Canada. It is generally accepted that Canadian institutions award degrees on par with those awarded by other universities around the globe.

It is typical for the academic year to last from September through April or May, with two semesters or terms. Post-secondary institutions often offer third-semester courses during the summer. A university’s study program will generally start in September (the most common starting date) or January (the second most popular starting date). Programs may run all year long, with college courses starting at various times.

French and English language education

The official language of Canada is English, while French is the second official language. Both languages are available for study to foreign students. Some institutions may offer bilingual instruction even though bilingualism is not mandatory to attend school in Canada.

Most of Canada’s schools teach English as the primary language. It is important to note that French-language schooling is widely accessible across the country. No matter the primary language of instruction, French or English is typically taught from a young age.

The majority of Quebec’s high school students are required to take French classes up to the end of their high school education. It is possible for a kid to obtain a certificate of eligibility to receive English instruction if the following circumstances apply:

  • Whether the mother or father of the child studied primary English in Canada.
  • Children who have finished the majority of their primary or secondary schooling in English in Canada or whose parents are Canadian citizens are both eligible. This includes children whose siblings have also completed their education.
  • The parent who had the child was deemed eligible for English instruction at the time the child attended school in Québec after August 26, 1977, and was a Canadian citizen.

Children whose parents are visiting Quebec for a brief period of time can also choose the English-speaking option (for example, on a work or study permit).

Quebec is the only province in Canada where immigrants are required to send their children to French-language public schools. There is the possibility of attending a private school in English.


Education has a high priority for the government of Canada. A publicly funded education system is supported and overseen by the federal, state, and local governments. Each province is in charge of regulating the curriculum and having jurisdiction over the public education system.

The Canadian education system includes three levels: Primary or elementary schools, secondary schools, and postsecondary or tertiary schools, which include colleges and universities as well as vocational and technical schools.