Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Education in Canada

The Canadian education system is a system with much diversity.

Table of contents
1 Canada Wide
2 The Provinces
3 Grades
4 Canada Outside Quebec
5 Quebec
6 Secondary Education

Canada Wide

Education in Canada is a provincial responsibility and, as such, there are many variations between the provinces. However, there are some constants. Education from Grade One (age 6) to Grade Twelve (age 17) is free and all children are obligated to attend school until the age of 16. While about one out of ten Canadians do not have any high school education and only one in seven have a university degree, these statistics are both moving in a positive direction. Canada spends about 7% of its GDP on education. One intervention by the federal government in the Canadian education system is in the matter of bilingualism. Since the Prime Ministership of Pierre Trudeau education in both English and French has been available across Canada. At the grade school level Canada has both private and public schools. Private schools are sometimes elite institutions such as Toronto's Upper Canada College but many are also smaller religious or speciality schools. In Canada all universities are publicly run, but there are some private religious colleges.

The Provinces

There are a great many differences between the educational systems of the various provinces.


Originally all the provinces had educational systems divided by religion, but most provinces have abolished these. Ontario, however, still has a large publicly funded Catholic school board. In Quebec the Catholic/Protestant divide was replaced with a French/English one in the 1990s.

Length of Study

Most Canadian education systems continue up to Grade Twelve (age 17). Until 2002, Ontario had a Grade Thirteen known as the Ontario Academic Credit (OAC), but this was recently abolished. Quebec still has the CEGEP which is a two or three year college program taken after high school and before university.


The main variation between the provinces with universities is the amount of funding they receive. Universities in Quebec and British Columbia receive the most funding and have the lowest tuitions. Universities in the Maritimes generally receive the least funding and some, like Acadia University, are almost wholly reliant on private funding. When Ontario had five years of high school, a three-year Bachelor's degree was common, but these degrees are being phased out in favour of the four-year degree.

Bachelor's degrees in Quebec are typically three-year programs, as the two-year CEGEP pre-university program covers most first-year requirements at a traditional university. (In some cases, such as education and engineering, they are four-year programs.) CEGEP graduates who go on to universities outside of Quebec are sometimes able to receive up to one year of credit from a four-year undergraduate program. On the other hand, students who graduate from a four-year high school system (Grade 12) and undertake their studies at a Quebec university must complete a "Freshman" program before continuing on to the Bachelor's program.


Primary education and secondary education combined are sometimes referred to as K-12 (Kindergarten through Grade 12). It should be noted that this structure can vary from school to school, and from province to province.

Canada Outside Quebec


Secondary Education

Canada, secondary schooling, known as high school or secondary school, differs depending on what province one resides in. Normally it follows the American pattern; however in Quebec, for instance, high school lasts five years and is started earlier and finished at a younger age than elsewhere in Canada. In Ontario high school students used to have the option of attending a fifth year of high school, but OAC or grade 13, as the fifth year was called, has now been phased out. In Quebec most students follow high school by attending a cegep, which is comparable to a junior college, and which is obligatory for Quebec students wishing to go on to university in Quebec.

See also: Education by country, List of Canadian Universities