The Canadian Education System


Considering that even such a matter as health care is publicly funded in Canada, it should not come as a surprise that the Canadian government provides education to all its citizens for free, if certain criteria are met. However, the Canadian education system functions the way that it does not foresee the role of government in managing schools and other – this is the issue the local authorities must deal with. Yet, more than 8% of the GDP is spent on education and schooling in Canada annually.

Structure of the Canadian education system

In general, the Canadian education system is structured in the following way: pre-elementary school, elementary school, middle school, high school, higher education (apprecenticeships, technical & vocational training, college, bachelor’s, and master’s), and doctorate. Typically, compulsory schooling lasts 12 years, beginning with elementary schooling and ending with secondary. However, it is up to the regional authorities to implement changes to their educational policies, and so the regional differences play a key role in determining the period of compulsory schooling.

education system of Canada

The Canadian kids have to enroll to kindergartens at the age of 5

Pre-elementary education, i.e. kindergartens, in Canada starts at the age of 5. Kindergartens offer only one year of pre-school education, whereas the Canadian children have to enter the primary school at the age of 6. However, kindergartens are available for children starting from 4 years old in some provinces. Compulsory schooling starts at the age of 6 and, in most cases, ends at the age of 18, upon graduation from the secondary school. Usually, education in secondary school lasts 6 years.

How the Canadian education system is funded

Considering that the compulsory schooling is free to all the Canadian citizens meeting certain criteria (like age and residence), it is logical that the education system is funded publicly. In most cases, the money come from local authorities, i.e. from the taxes that go to the local budgets. In some cases, however, a “mixed” method of funding works: whereas the local authorities don’t collect enough taxes to cover all the costs of education, the federal government provides transfers from the federal budget.

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Even though the compulsory schooling is free of charge, the parents should pay additional fees for out-of-class subjects, such as art or music. Typically, those fees start from $5 up to $100 per semester of studying such a subject. Higher education, on the contrary, heavily relies on the tuition fees, though there are many scholarships granted to promising and distinguished students. Yet, the competition for getting those scholarships is highly intense and it is relatively hard to obtain a scholarship.

Post-secondary education in Canada

The system of post-secondary education in Canada has evolved during the last years, and includes the following stages (from the lowest to the most senior): (1) apprenticeships and vocational & technical training, (2) college education, (3) Bachelor’s degree, (4) Master’s degree, and (5) Doctorate. Immediately after finishing a high school, you are able to enroll in a Canadian university, upon the graduation from which you will get a Bachelor’s degree (undergraduate programs).

On the average, the tuition fees amount to almost $5,000 per year annually. Though, international students spend on tuition more, with $14,000 of tuition fees per year on the average. Yet, student fees provide only 20 percent of the money spent on the higher education. Other sources are the state and local budgets (54.2 percent) and investments, donations, sales of products/services, grants from private organizations, etc. (25 percent).


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