Empowering Youths, Shaping the Technocrats

Educational System of Canada

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Education in Canada is a very high priority of the government.

The country boasts a state-run system of public education, one that is provided, funded and administered by federal, provincial and local governments.  Jurisdiction of the public education system, as well its curriculum, is overseen by each province.  As a result, one can expect to see slight variations in the educational systems of each province (the type of programs offered, minimum and maximum age requirements, etc.), but the similarities in those systems far outweigh the differences.

Education across Canada is generally divided into four stages: pre-school or early childhood education; primary or elementary education; secondary education and post-secondary or tertiary education, which includes college and university programs and vocational/technical schooling.

Education is compulsory up to the age of 16 in every province in Canada, except for Ontario and New Brunswick, where the compulsory age is 18.  Canada generally has 190 total school days in the academic year, typically starting in September (after Labor Day) and concluding near the end of June—usually the last Friday of the month, except in some cases in the Province of Quebec, when the last day of school occurs just before June 24, a holiday in the province.

Pre-Elementary Education in Canada

Educational programs offered to young children (4-5 years) prior to that student beginning elementary school at age six—are offered by public, private, and federal schools within the country, as well as schools for the visually and hearing impaired. 

Primary (Elementary) Education in Canada

Primary education in Canada is compulsory for all children, usually beginning at age 6 or 7 with Grade One. Students in the primary grades of education typically study under only one instructor for the entire school year and receive that instruction in a single classroom.  Special education programs may also have one to four instructional aides present, depending on the type and severity of the students disabilities, to assist the teacher throughout the day.

Secondary Education in Canada

Secondary education in Canada consists of two distinct levels:  intermediate and high school.

Intermediate education

Once students have successfully completed the final year of elementary or primary education, or Grade 6, they are promoted to intermediate or junior high school. The basic goal of intermediate education is to prepare students to enter the next phase of secondary education, or high school.  They are taught many of the same subjects in which they received instruction in primary school, although the difficulty increases substantially.  Other subjects are also added to the curriculum in intermediate school, most notably foreign language instruction—French, Spanish, English (for Quebec students), etc.

High School Education

Once students successfully complete the 8 Grade, they are promoted once again, this time to high school—a four year program. The curriculum in all of Canada’s high schools is designed to prepare students for a college or university education and/or provide them with the skills to succeed vocationally once they graduate.  Depending on the jurisdiction, a variety of programs —vocational (job-training) as well as academic—is offered at the high school level. 

Post-Secondary Education in Canada

Once students successfully graduate from high school (Secondary V in Quebec) they are free to apply to the college or university of their choice.  Many students use college as a way to prepare further for a university education, gaining transferrable credits that can be applied once they transfer.  Other students use college to prepare for a trade or vocation, earning a diploma or certificate that would allow them to immediately pursue employment opportunities following the completion of the program.

A university in Canada is an institution of higher education and research, which grants academic degrees in a variety of subjects. The degree structure at Canadian universities is very similar to that of the United States:

Bachelor’s Degree
A Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science is an undergraduate degree that typically takes three, four or five years to complete (depending on the province and class availability) for full-time students.

Master’s Degree
A Master of Arts or Master of Science is known as a graduate degree, one that typically takes two years to complete.

The Doctorate or PhD degree is a specialized post-graduate degree that can take anywhere from 3-6 years to complete.

Vocational Schools

In addition to community colleges, which offer some vocational training, students can also learn a vocation or trade at one of the many private vocational and technical schools scattered throughout the country, or via an apprenticeship program.


Apprenticeships in Canada allow students to learn the skills they need for a given trade by working hands-on in that environment under a qualified supervisor. Apprenticeship training involves a contract between an apprentice and an employer—registered with the province or jurisdiction—in which the employer provides the apprentice with training and experience for a trade. Programs such as these vary in length depending on the type of trade or program, ranging anywhere from two to five years.  Registered apprenticeship programs combine real-world experience with classroom education.  In most provinces, the classroom portion of the course is conducted during the apprenticeship training, although in Quebec, classroom instruction must be taken prior to beginning an apprenticeship program.