| OVERVIEW OF EDUCATION IN CANADA*
LEVELS OF EDUCATION
As the education system in Canada is managed by provincial governments in Canada, the way the educational stages are grouped and named may differ from region to region.
- Education in Canada is a state-run system of public education provided, funded and overseen by federal, provincial, and local governments. Education is within provincial jurisdiction and the curriculum is overseen by the province.
- Education is generally divided into primary education, secondary education and post-secondary.
- Elementary, secondary and post-secondary education is a provincial responsibility and there are many variations between the provinces.
- Education is compulsory up to the age of 16 in every province in Canada, except for Ontario and New Brunswick, where the compulsory age is 18.
- Canada generally has 190 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 some cases in Quebec when it is just before June 24 – the provincial holiday).
- About one out of ten Canadians does not have a high school diploma. One in seven has a university degree. The ratio of high school graduates versus non diploma-holders is changing rapidly, partly due to changes in the labour market that require people to have a high school diploma and, in many cases, a university degree.
- Religion and language:Originally all the provinces had educational systems divided by religion, but most provinces have abolished these. Ontario, Alberta, the Northwest Territories, and certain cities in Saskatchewan are exceptions to this, as they still maintain publicly-funded separate district school boards (usually Catholic but occasionally Protestant). In Quebec, the Catholic/Protestant divide was replaced with a French/English one in 1998. Quebecers must attend a French School up until the end of high school unless one of their parents previously attended an English-language school somewhere in Canada (immigrants from other countries cannot use this exception). Likewise, access to French school in most other provinces is limited to children having at least one francophone parent, or a parent who is a Canadian citizen having received French-language primary instruction in Canada.
- Lenth of study: Most Canadian education systems continue up to grade twelve (age seventeen to eighteen). In Quebec, the typical high school term ends after Secondary V/Grade eleven (age sixteen to seventeen); following this, students who wish to pursue their studies to the university level have to attend college.
- Authority: For each type of publicly funded school, the province is divided into districts (or divisions). For each district, board members (trustees) are elected only by its supporters within the district (voters receive a ballot for just one of the boards in their area). Normally, all publicly funded schools are under the authority of their local district school board. These school boards would follow a common curriculum set up by the province the board resides in. Only Alberta allows public charter schools, which are independent of any district board. Instead, they each have their own board, which reports directly to the province.
- Early childhood education
- Junior Kindergarten (ages 4–5, Ontario only)
- Kindergarten (ages 5–6)
- Primary education
- Grade 1 (ages 6–7)
- Grade 2 (ages 7–8)
- Grade 3 (ages 8–9)
- Grade 4 (ages 9–10)
- Grade 5 (ages 10–11)
- Grade 6 (ages 11–12)
- Intermediate education
- Grade 7 (ages 12–13)
- Grade 8 (ages 13–14)
- Secondary education
- Grade 9 (ages 14–15)
- Grade 10 (ages 15–16)
- Grade 11 (ages 16–17)
- Grade 12 (ages 17–18)
- Grade 12+ (ages 17+) (Ontario only)
- Tertiary education
- College: In Canada, the term college usually refers to a community college or a technical, applied arts, or applied science school. These are post-secondary institutions granting certificates, diplomas, associates degree, and bachelor's degrees.
- University: A university is an institution of higher education and research, which grants academic degrees in a variety of subjects. A university is a corporation that provides both undergraduate education and postgraduate education.
- Graduate school: A graduate school is a school that awards advanced academic degrees (i.e. master's degree, Ph.D.)
The following table shows how grades are organized in various provinces. Often, there will be exceptions within each province, both with terminology for groups, and which grades apply to each group.
- Primary 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.
- In Canada, secondary schooling, known as high school or collegiate institute or "école secondaire" or secondary school, differs depending on the province in which one resides. Additionally, grade structure may vary within a province and even within a school division.
- Secondary education in Quebec continues to Grade 11 (Secondary V), and is typically followed by college, a two year pre-university (university for Quebecers is three years, except Engineering), or three year vocational program program taken after high school. (see Education in Quebec).
- Post-secondary education in Canada is also the responsibility of the individual provinces and territories. Provinical 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.
- 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, which 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.
- 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.
- In Quebec, post-secondary education begins with college following graduation from Grade 11 (or Secondary V). Students complete a two- or three-year general program leading to admission to a university, or a professional program leading directly into the labour force. In most cases, bachelor's degree programs in Quebec are three years instead of the usual four; however, in many cases, students attending a university in Quebec that did not graduate from college must complete an additional year of coursework.
- The Royal Military College of Canada (RMC), is the military academy of the Canadian Forces and is a full degree-granting university. RMC is the only federal institution with degree granting powers.
- Private schools
About 8% of students are in private schools. A minority of these are elite private schools.
These schools are attended by only a small fraction of students, but do have a great deal of prestige and prominence.
It is not unusual for the wealthy and prominent in Canada to send their children to public schools, especially in the lower grades.
A far larger portion of private schools are religious based institutions.
- Private Universities
In the past, private universities in Canada maintained a religious history or foundation. Although since 1999, the Province of New Brunswick passed the Degree Granting Act allowing private universities to operate in the Province. The University of Fredericton is the newest University to receive designation in New Brunswick.
In 2002, British Columbia’s Quest University became the first privately funded liberal arts university without a denominational affiliation (although it is not the first private liberal arts university).
Many provinces, including Ontario and Alberta, have passed legislation allowing private degree-granting institutions (not necessarily universities) to operate there.
Many Canadians remain polarized on the issue of permitting private universities into the Canadian market. On the one hand, Canada’s top universities find it difficult to compete with the private American powerhouses because of funding, but on the other hand, the fact that the price of private universities tends to exclude those who cannot pay that much for their education could prevent a significant portion of Canada’s population from being able to attend these schools.
- Religious schools
Each province deals differently with private religious schools.
In Ontario the Catholic system continues to be fully publicly funded while other faiths are not. Ontario has several private Jewish, Muslim, and Christian schools all funded through tuition fees. Since the Catholic schools system is entrenched in the constitution, the Supreme Court has ruled that this system is constitutional.
In other provinces privately operated religious schools are funded. In British Columbia the government pays 50% of the cost of religious schools that meet rigorous provincial standards. The province has a number of Sikh, Hindu, Christian, and Muslim schools.
Alberta also has a network of charter schools, which are fully funded schools offering distinct approaches to education within the public school system. Alberta charter schools are not private and the province does not grant charters to religious schools. These schools have to follow the provincial curriculum and meet all standards, but are given considerable freedom in other areas.
In all other provinces private religious schools receive some funding, but not as much as the public system.
An example of how schools can be divided by religions in Toronto includes the Toronto Catholic District School Board and Toronto District School Board.