Schools in Canada: Guide for Parents

The Canadian Education System

Canada’s educational system includes both public and private institutions, such as community colleges/technical institutes, career colleges, language schools, secondary schools, summer camps, and universities and university colleges.

Because education is a matter of provincial jurisdiction under the Canadian constitution, the educational systems of the various provinces vary significantly. Canadians, on the other hand, place a great value on education, with standards throughout the country being very high.

Education in Canada is split into 4 levels:

  • Pre-Elementary
  • Primary
  • Secondary
  • Post-secondary

Need immigration tips? Check out this guide on how to move to Canada with children.

Published on September 27, 2021

Table of Contents

Structure of the Education System in Canada

Pre-Elementary School

Canadian children aged four to five are eligible for pre-elementary, often known as “kindergarten,” which is the first stage of formal education before they enter elementary school.

Primary School

Children in Canada must attend primary school or formally known as elementary school from grade 1, usually at the age of 6 or 7, through grade 6, at the age of 11 or 12 years old.

Secondary Education

Once completing elementary school students will then move up to junior high and high school for their secondary education in Canada.

Junior High School

After completing elementary school, students go on to junior high school, often known as intermediate education. Grades 7 and 8 are included in this two-year educational level.

High School

Once students complete grade 8, this is the time they should prepare to enter high school, where they will spend the next 4 years until grade 11 or 12 (between the ages of 16 and 18, depending on the student’s circumstances and province).

Post-Secondary Education

Students in Canada have the option to apply to colleges and universities after high school.  Many Canadian high school students will attend community college in order to get academic preparation for university. These credits may then be used towards a university degree.

The university system in Canada is structured similarly to that in the United States, with bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees being the first three levels of study, with a PhD being the highest.

4 Types of Schools in Canada

Not all children are one and the same. Some learn better with special treatment, some learn better in public establishments, and some in private. Want to know which institution is best for your child to attend in Canada? We’ve created this list below for you to check out for yourselves!

4 Types of Schools in Canada ⬇️
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The public education system in Canada is made up of kindergarten through high school.  A uniform curriculum is followed by all public schools in Canada, and only government-certified educators are employed. These schools are also financed by the Canada’s taxpayers.

Elementary and secondary education is available at private schools in Canada. There are also various Canadian private colleges and universities. Canadians’ access to private education is governed by provincial legislation that deal with private education. Some private schools follow a particular educational philosophy, such as Montessori or Waldorf, while others are affiliated with a certain religious group.

Parents in Canada who want to send their children to religious schools, with the exception of certain Catholic ones, must do so via private institutions. These educational establishments provide both a traditional academic education and religious instruction unique to the institution’s chosen faith.

Students with disabilities, developmental issues, behavioral disorders, academic challenges, or unique talents are handled through special education, which takes a student-centered approach. There are many words used interchangeably throughout Canada’s provinces and territories to describe extraordinary learners.

Parents have 4 types of Canadian schools to choose from that best fit their child's skills and abilities.

The Canadian Academic Culture and Standards

Canada’s academic culture and standards is based off of academic grading systems, common age groups, holidays and extracurricular school activities. Here are a few characteristics of Canadian student environment that you should be aware of. In your classes, pay attention to how these characteristics come into play in the interactions between students and teachers on a daily basis. Compare and contrast these characteristics with the academic environment in your own country.

✅ Academic Grading System

Percentage: 50% as the lowest score while 100% is deemed as the highest score. 

Classification: Excellent (A or 80 to 100), Good (B or 70 to 79), Average/Fair (C or 60 to 69), Poor (D or 50 to 59), Fail (F or Below 50).

👧🏻👩🏻‍🦱👩🏻 Common Age Group Per School Level in Canada

  • Kindergarten: 4-6
  • Grade 1: 6
  • Grade 2: 7
  • Grade 3: 8
  • Grade 4: 9
  • Grade 5: 10
  • Grade 6: 11
  • Grade 7: 12
  • Grade 8: 13
  • Grade 9: 14
  • Grade 10: 15
  • Grade 11: 16
  • Grade 12: 17

🎄 Canadian School Year and Holidays

  • Labor Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Break
  • Family Day
  • Mid-Winter Break
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Monday
  • Victoria Day
  • Summer Break (July-August)

⚽ Extracurricular School Activities

Sports, clubs, and other activities that take place outside of school are known as extracurriculars. Some examples of these groups are for those who are interested in different kinds of sports or music or the arts. Various extracurricular activities are available at different schools across the country. Student may establish one if it does not already exist.

Extracurricular accomplishments are highly valued by Canadian colleges, universities, and companies. Hence, these extracurricular activities may assist your kid explore their hobbies outside of academics, establish friends, and get accustomed to the Canadian educational system, but also prepare them for a successful career in Canada.

Step by Step Process in Enrolling Your Child to School

🎒 Step 1: Prepare all the documents and requirements.

The following documents are essential:

  • Birth certificate or Passport of Child
  • Copy of a bank statement, telephone or hydro bill, or apartment lease with your name and address
  • Confirmation of Permanent Residence Address
  • Details of the child’s medical history
  • Records of immunization of child
  • Past academic records

🎒 Step 2: Contact your local school district and identify the schools available in your neighborhood.

The procedure of enrolling varies depending on the kind of institution. You may check with your local school district office or the school board to locate an institution within your neighborhood.

🎒 Step 3: Submit school requirements! It’s important to be mindful of the application deadlines and announcements.

Consider the application deadlines and get in touch with the school early. 

🎒 Step 4: Wait for the school assessment.

The school board will need copies of your enrollment papers. In order to make sure your kid is placed in the appropriate grade, they will do an assessment with them.

🎒 Step 5: Congratulations! Your child is finally ready for school.

Note that in some cases, children are required to take French or English classes before the beginning of the academic year.

International Students looking at a laptop and smiling in Canada
There are 5 easy steps on how you can process the enrollment of your child in any of Canada's top institutions!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Basic public education is free for Canadian citizens up to the 11th or 12th grade, depending on the province, even though there isn’t a single educational system in Canada. However, international students are required to pay the entire amount of tuition.

In Canada, education is provided in English and French, the country’s two official languages.

Except for statutory holidays and summer break, elementary and secondary school is held Monday through Friday.In Canada, education is provided in English and French, the country’s two official languages.

In addition to the usual back to school supplies needed for each year, you’ll need to prepare the following items:

  • School Uniforms (If required)
  • Gym Clothes
  • Winter Garments
  • Backpack
  • Electronics (Mobile Phone, Laptop, or Ipad if required)

Learn more about studying to Canada: