Education in Canada

Canada has a highly rated education system and in fact has 3 universities listed in the Times Higher Education World 2012; the University of Toronto, University of British Columbia and McGill. Literacy amongst both male and female pupils is 99% and the attainment for a secondary diploma (similar to the British GCSEs) is 80.5%.

Many Canadian states have their own starting and leaving ages for pupils but generally children start school from the age of 4-7 and they stay in compulsory education until they are 16 except for Manitoba, Ontario and Brunswick where the leaving age is 18. Pupils can leave earlier under certain circumstances.

School years are the same as in the UK. The school year starts in September and finishes around June. There are 190 school days (only 180 in Quebec which follows a French system) in every year.

As well as state schools, parents can also choose from private and religious schools. The Canadian Immigration website has more information on the education system in Canada for newcomers.


All states provide some form of pre-schooling from the age of 5, with many offering pre-school classes for children even younger. Statistics show that around 40% of 4 year olds in Canada attended pre-school, with this figure rising to 95% of 5 year olds. Typically pre-schooling is non compulsory under the age of 6 and available on a part time basis.

Elementary School

Elementary school begins at Grade 1 and goes through to Grade 6 or 8 in some states before they then start high school. Just as in the UK, children are put into Grade classes (or if the school is small, several grades may be taught together) and taught by one teacher for that year, with help from teaching assistants.

Strong emphasis is given to literacy as well as the usual subjects of maths, science and PE. Some schools also teach a second language and in Quebec, where the main language spoken is French, this second language is usually English.

High School

The UK used to have a 3 tiered education system comprising of Infant, Junior and Secondary and in some states of Canada you’ll still find Middle Schools which are essentially Junior schools, teaching children from grades 7 to 8.

High school starts from Grade 8 to Grade 12 and just as in the UK, there are various teachers who specialise in their chosen subjects. Many high schools may also specialise in areas such as mathematics, science or art. Students will take exams and also have part of their coursework counted for diploma qualifications at the end of school.

Higher Education in Canada

There are a number of colleges and Universities in Canada to choose from. Most colleges charge tuition fees with universities apart from in Quebec where college education is free. Profiles of colleges and universities in Canada can be found on the Universities Canada website. Read more about the Canadain eduaction system.