Education in Canada
Canada does not have a Federal Department or National System of Education. The federal government is responsible for the Royal Military College of Canada and funds education for Indigenous people. The provincial government is responsible for all of the other matters involving education therefore, management of education varies from province to province.
Education in Canada is generally divided into primary education, followed by secondary education and post-secondary. Within the provinces under the ministry of education, there are district school boards administering the educational programs. Education is compulsory up to the age of 16 in every province in Canada, except for Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick, where the compulsory age is 18, or as soon as a high school diploma has been achieved. In some provinces early leaving exemptions can be granted under certain circumstances at 14.
Canada generally has 190 (180 in Quebec) school days in the year, officially starting from September (after Labour Day) to the end of June (usually the last Friday of the month, except in Quebec when it is just before June 24 – the provincial holiday).
In local areas schools are managed by school boards also called, school districts, school divisions, district education councils. These school boards are in charge of staff, buildings, administration and student enrollment.
The education system is divided into categories:
- Pre-elementary or Kindergarten – Offered before children start school; children start at four or five years of age. In New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, pre-elementary is mandatory. This is offered by public, private or federal schools.
- Primary School – Mandatory for children starting from ages six or seven and goes until grade 6. The difficulties of learning increase as the child advances to higher grades.
- Secondary School – Junior high school (or intermediate school) and high school; junior high school is grade 7 and 8. Children are around the ages of 12 and 13 years old. Children stay in high school for 4 years from grade 9-12. In Ontario and New Brunswick, Nunavut and Manitoba, students must stay in school until they are 18 or have completed a high school diploma.
- Post-Secondary School – Students have the option of going to College or University to complete their Post-Secondary education. College can be a community college or a specific trade school and students generally go to acquire hands on, practical learning and preparation for university pathways and credit transfers. University is for higher learning and students can graduate with academic degrees starting from Bachelors and can continue to Masters and/or Ph.D.
Post-secondary education in Canada is also the responsibility of the individual provinces and territories. Several students rely on two financial aid programs to assist them in covering the expenses for post-secondary institutions.
- Student loans from bank and government – needs to be repaid
- Bursary, grants, scholarships – does not need to be repaid
Those governments provide the majority of funding to their public post-secondary institutions, with the remainder of funding coming from tuition fees, the federal government, and research grants. Compared to other countries in the past, Canada has had the highest tertiary school enrollment as a percentage of their graduating population.
Nearly all post-secondary institutions in Canada have the authority to grant academic credentials (i.e., diplomas or degrees). Generally speaking, universities grant degrees (e.g., bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degrees) while colleges, typically offer vocationally oriented programs, grant diplomas and certificates. However, some colleges offer applied arts degrees that lead to or are equivalent to degrees from a university. Private career colleges are overseen by legislative acts for each province, for example in British Columbia training providers will be registered and accredited with the (PCTIA) Private Career Training Institutions Agency regulated under the Private Career Training Institutions Act (SBC 2003). Each province with their own correlating agency. Unlike the United States, there is no “accreditation body” that oversees the universities in Canada. Universities in Canada have degree-granting authority via an Act or Ministerial Consent from the Ministry of Education of the particular province.
Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials
Association of Canadian Community Colleges
Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
National Association of Career Colleges