Blogs on 'Study in Canada'

Canada Education System for International Students

5 min read
Blog Summary An overview of the Canadian education system for international students is presented. The structure of the education system, the quality of education, and benefits of studying in Canada are detailed.
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Canada has one of the best education systems in the world. The country's public education system has a solid base and is divided based on provinces. The educational institutions are funded, run and administered by the provincial, federal and local governments. Each oversees the running of the education system that falls under it. A few aspects of it may vary depending on the province, but the overall education system remains the same. The Canadian government spends almost 6% of its GDP on education from Kindergarten to the Post Secondary level. Additionally, the country also has a robust private sector education system. Compared to other OECD countries, Canada spends proportionately more on education, one of the many reasons the Canadian education system is revered globally.

Every province in Canada except New Brunswick and Ontario has made education compulsory for children up to the age of 16. For children from New Brunswick and Ontario, the age limit of compulsory education is 18 years. It is estimated that one in seven Canadians holds a university degree. It will be beneficial for you to learn more about the education system in Canada if you are planning to move to the country for your higher education. If so, you can read the blog further.

How does Canada's Education System Rank in the World?

In the world ranking of the most educated countries, Canada secures the fourth position in 2022. The first on the list is the USA, followed by the UK and Germany. Canada welcomes thousands of international students annually, which is an added advantage for international students. Canada was also ranked third among the countries with the best education systems in 2020. Canada also secures a 'B' grade on the Education and Skills report card. The country also boasts the highest college attainment rate and the second-highest high school attainment rate.

Canada Education System: Study Levels

As mentioned previously, the Canadian education system is divided based on provinces. The country has two official languages; English and French. As such, a few provinces like New Brunswick, Ontario, Quebec and a few others use French as their medium of instruction. So, it would do well if you knew French. The Canadian education system is divided into three levels. They are Primary (Elementary), Secondary and Post Secondary education levels.

Primary (Elementary) Education

Primary education in Canada will last six years, from grades one to six. It can begin at the age of 6-7, and students usually study under a single instructor. Special education programs like those for disabled students may have other teachers to assist them. 

Primary education is divided into the following way: 

  • Grade 1 (ages 6–7)
  • Grade 2 (ages 7–8)
  • Grade 3 (ages 8–9)
  • Grade 4 (ages 9–10)
  • Grade 5 (ages 10–11)
  • Grade 6 (ages 11–12)

Students will learn several major subjects like Mathematics, Social Studies, Language Arts (which will be in English or French), Reading, Physical Education, Science, Music, Arts and Geography.

Secondary Education

Secondary education in Canada is divided into Intermediate (Junior High School) and High School education.

Intermediate Education

All students who have completed their primary education will start their intermediate education next. 

It lasts for two years, which are:

  • Grade 7 (ages 12–13)
  • Grade 8 (ages 13–14)

The entire classroom setup will be different from the previous level here. Students will attend different classrooms, and different teachers will handle the classes. These teachers will be experts in their respective subjects, and they will possess teaching certificates in their subjects. Almost all subjects dealt with at the primary level will also be taught at the intermediate level. Additionally, there will be other subjects like English (for students from Quebec), French and Spanish.

High School Education

All students who complete their grade 8 will be promoted to this level. 

This level constitutes four years in the following way: 

  • Grade 9 (ages 14–15)
  • Grade 10 (ages 15–16)
  • Grade 11 (ages 16–17)
  • Grade 12 (ages 17–18)

By law, all students must remain in high school regardless of their grades. This rule applies to all provinces except Ontario and New Brunswick. In these two provinces, students must remain in high school till 18 years of age, after which they will get a Diploma. It is estimated that almost 90 per cent of students complete this level and receive a diploma. The curriculum in nearly all schools in Canada prepares students for their university education. A few jurisdictions even provide vocational and academic programs as well. Some jurisdictions offer dual credit courses that give the students both high school and postsecondary credits. In Quebec, secondary education extends to grade 11 and is followed by a two-year pre-university (for 3 years except for Engineering) or three-year vocational program.

Post-Secondary Education in Canada

The post-secondary education in Canada includes Colleges and universities. 

They are explained in detail below: 

Colleges and Universities

Once a student completes high school, they can apply to colleges and universities. The term college usually refers to a community college, or applied science, applied arts or technical school. These are post-secondary institutions that offer diplomas, associate degrees and vocational certificates. 

Universities are higher education institutions that offer various programs such as:

  • Bachelor's Degree: A standard BA or BSc degree takes three to four years to be completed.
  • Master's Degree: This is typically a two-year degree such as MA or MSc, commonly known as a Graduate degree.
  • PhD: The Doctoral or PhD degree specialises in a particular area of study and takes three to six years to complete.

There are several other areas of study as well, which include Business Administration, Medicine, Engineering, Law, Veterinary Medicine etc. In Canada, higher education institutions have degree-granting authority through the Ministerial Consent Act from each province's Ministry of Education.

In Quebec, post-secondary education begins with college, just after the students complete grade 11. A Bachelor's program in Quebec usually takes three years to be completed. However, more often than not, a student who did not graduate from college attending a university in Quebec should complete an additional year of coursework. The only Canadian university that is federally funded and has the power to grant degrees is the Royal Military College (RMC).

Vocational Schools and Apprenticeships

In addition to community colleges, private vocational and technical schools provide training in various fields. These vocational schools' popularity is increasing over the years as more and more courses are being introduced. Apprenticeships allow students to learn several skills and also help them gain hands-on experience under the guidance of supervisors. They have varying course durations ranging from two to five years.

If you feel that you need to know more about anything related to studying in Canada, you can contact AECC. We will be happy to help you in every way we can. We have counsellors and other professionals who are trained to help students with all their study-abroad needs. Contact us so that we can be of assistance to you.


Frequently Asked Questions

How is the education system in Canada structured?
The Canadian education system is divided based on provinces and is overseen by provincial, federal, and local governments. While some aspects may vary by province, the overall structure remains consistent. The system is divided into Primary (Elementary), Secondary, and Post-Secondary education levels. Additionally, Canada has two official languages, English and French, and some provinces use French as their medium of instruction.
How does Canada's education system rank globally?
Canada holds the fourth position in the world ranking of the most educated countries in 2022. It was also ranked third among countries with the best education systems in 2020. Canada has a 'B' grade on the Education and Skills report card and boasts the highest college attainment rate and the second-highest high school attainment rate.
What are the different levels of primary and secondary education in Canada?
Primary education in Canada lasts six years, from grades one to six, and covers subjects like Mathematics, Social Studies, Language Arts, Science, and more. Secondary education is divided into Intermediate (Junior High School) and High School education. Intermediate education lasts for two years (Grade 7 and 8), while High School education spans four years from Grade 9 to Grade 12.
What does post-secondary education in Canada entail?
Post-secondary education in Canada includes colleges and universities. Colleges typically refer to community colleges, applied science schools, or technical schools offering diplomas, associate degrees, and vocational certificates. Universities offer Bachelor's, Master's, and PhD degrees in various fields. In Quebec, post-secondary education begins with college after grade 11, and a Bachelor's program usually takes three years.
Are there vocational schools and apprenticeships in Canada?
Yes, in addition to community colleges, Canada has private vocational and technical schools that provide training in various fields. These schools have been gaining popularity with the introduction of more courses. Apprenticeships allow students to learn skills and gain hands-on experience under expert guidance, with course durations ranging from two to five years.
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