expat network

Schools In Canada

Schools in Canada are administered by the individual provinces and generally have a good reputation.  With a good standard of education there are options in state and private schools for expats.

State Education

The provinces and territories of Canada are responsible for education at elementary and secondary levels as well as technical and vocational education.  While there are a great many similarities in the education systems across Canada, there are significant differences in curriculum, assessment, and accountability policies.

Education is free for all residents of Canada.  The standard is generally consistently good across the elementary and secondary school systems, although some city schools can be overcrowded.  Overall the literacy rate is around 97%.

The Canadian school year runs from September until May or June.

Teaching is in English in all states apart from Quebec where teaching is mainly in French, although there are schools available that teach in English.  With the special culture of Canada, French immersion programmes are often available in Canadian schools, mainly in the province of Ontario. Students whose first language is not French are immersed to varying degrees with some schools teaching 50% in French and 50% in English. In others all instruction is in French.

All of the states and territories provide Kindergarten programs either full-day or half-day.  In some areas it is mandatory and others it is voluntary.

Each state sets the age for compulsory schooling, but most require attendance in school from age 6 to age 16 and elementary schools cover six to eight years of schooling. In some states compulsory schooling starts at 5 and in others it extends to age 18.

The curriculum in elementary schools focuses on language, maths, social studies, science, health and physical education as well as basic arts. In some states they start to teach a second language. Literacy is a particular focus.

Secondary education covers the final four to six years of compulsory education.  In the first years in secondary school the courses are mainly compulsory courses with limited optional subjects. The number of options increases in the later years so that students are able to focus on specialized courses to prepare for the job market or on to meet the entrance requirements of postsecondary institutions.

French is available as a course in most schools and is often a required course.

Schools in metropolitan areas tend to be neighbourhood schools and pupils either walk to school or are given a lift as there is not often a school bus service.


Private and International Schools

There are a number of international and foreign-language schools in Canada, mainly in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. For expats who want their children to be taught based on a curriculum that is available at home, International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes can be a good option and are widely available.

International schools accept students of all nationalities and teaching is in English in most parts of Canada and in French or English in the province of Quebec.

Many private schools, a number of which are operated by religious denominations, are located in the major cities; many offer International Baccalaureate diplomas. There are Roman Catholic schools, which supported by the state government in Ontario and in some other provinces. Most religious schools are protestant or roman catholic.


Special Needs

Canada has legislation that ensures that children with special needs are accommodated by schools. The Learning Disabilities Association of Canada advocates on behalf of people with special needs and its website has useful information and resources.


Graduate Studies

Canadian Universities have a good reputation and you can see a directory of Canadian higher education at uniRank.


Useful links:

Calgary –  Calgary’s Board of Education

Edmonton – Edmonton Public Schools Board and Edmonton Catholic Schools District

Halifax – Halifax Regional School Board

Montreal – Commission scolaire de Montréal

Ottawa – Ottawa-Carleton District School Board

Quebec CityCentral Québec School Board

Toronto – Toronto District School Board  and Toronto Catholic District School Board

Vancouver – Vancouver School Board and

British Columbia – British Columbia Ministry of Education.

Universities and colleges – Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, Association of Canadian Community Colleges and Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials