Education system in Canada

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Canada is a vast country stretching across North America to the north of the Artic Ocean, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. It’s the second largest country in the world with 31.6 million inhabitants. Canada is a confederation of ten provinces and three territories. Therefore, Canada has no federal or national department of education. So, the CMEC (The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada) was formed in 1967 to represent the national department of education. Even though the thirteen education systems are similar, they also have many differences in respect of their regional history, culture and geography. Canada has two official languages: English being spoken by 75% of the population and French being spoken by 25% (mainly situated in Quebec). Therefore, languages are highly integrated into the Canadian school system with many students being bilingual. The academic year runs from September to June.

As in most developed countries, nurseries are available for young children. From the age of 4, children can go to kindergartens which are run by local authorities.

The Canadian schools system is publicly funded which means that it is free to Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

The school system is divided into three phases:
Elementary which begins at grade 1 until 5 (or pupils who are 6 until they reach 10 years old). Some elementary schools also include a middle school or junior school for grades 6-8 (ages 11-13).

Pupils then join the Secondary school (sometimes called high school) for grades 9 to 12 (ages 14-18), though in Quebec it is only until grade 11. The curriculum involves both academic and vocational subjects, which gives the pupils credits to enable them to enter universities or colleges once they graduate from high school.

Postsecondary education is very popular in Canada as it has the highest postsecondary education participation rate in the world, with over 2.5 million Canadians enrolled in full-time or part-time postsecondary education for the year 2002 ( Canadian students pay tuition fees to attend colleges and universities. Colleges mainly offer vocational programs leading to certificates and diplomas whereas universities offer academic subjects leading to degrees. Postsecondary schools (after grade11) in Quebec are called Cegep (Colleges d’Enseignement General et Professionnel). They are free to Quebec residents and offer a general program for vocational education over a two or three year period leading to University admission. Financial help is available for students such as the Canada Student Loans Programs which is only available to Canadian citizens and permanent residents. Scholarships are granted by universities to students of exceptional ability.

International students wishing to study in Canada must obtain a study permit before entering Canada. Students who want to study in Quebec must also obtain the Certificat d’acceptation du Quebec. It is totally up to the institutions to set their entry requirements for international students. As far as special needs students are concerned, they are integrated in the mainstream school system with services available such as SEN student support, classroom assistants etc..

Educational alternatives

In Canada, education is compulsory from the age of 6 until 16. This doesn’t mean that pupils have to attend mainstream schools. Several other possibilities are available.

Home schooling

It is allowed in all provinces in Canada, but parents must meet the general standards, curriculum and diploma requirements.

Private schools

Canada has many independent schools throughout its provinces. The schools have to meet the general standards for the relevant province. These schools charge fees.

Distributed learning

Canada is one of the world leaders in distance learning with IT. This system enables students in remote communities and international students to have access to further education. This program involves to use technology to promote learning.

Useful links

AUCC Canadian Universities
General information about Canadian universities (Visited 30-June-05)

British Council Canada
The British council provides detailed information about the public school system, with emphasis on the curriculum. (Visited 30-June-05)

CICIC Postsecondary Education Systems in Canada
This website describes the postsecondary education system in Canada with all the different possibilities and links to Canadian universities. (Visited 30-June-05)

Education @ Canada
A very interesting website with many details about studying in Canada. (Visited 30-June-05)