Education System in Canada: A Complete Guide for International Students

Education System in Canada

Source: Unsplash

Canada is the second-largest country and one of the sparsely populated nations in the world. It is arguably the cleanest, safest and most student-friendly country with a vast expanse of natural beauty amidst mountains, glaciers and beautiful landscapes. The population of Canada is estimated at 38 million, with more than 20% of its population being immigrants and expatriates. Canada welcomes immigrants to create jobs, fill gaps for jobs that need special skills, and boost its economy. Immigrants and expatriates planning to settle down in Canada must have a clear understanding of the education system in Canada. Let us review in detail how the education system works in this country.

The Structure of Education System in Canada

The education system in Canada is one of the best in the world, comprising both public-funded and private schools. The Government of Canada takes utmost responsibility in providing free and quality education for all its residents. Education is mandatory for children up to the age of 16 in all provinces and territories of Canada. Local, territorial and provincial governments fund the public education system in Canada. The Ministry of Education administers free education from kindergarten till grade 12. Since Canada is a bilingual nation, the medium of instruction for education is made available in both English and French. French is the primary language used in certain provinces, especially Quebec. 

The education system in Canada is divided into different levels: Pre-Elementary, Primary, Intermediate, Secondary and Post-Secondary Education. Schools in Canada begin in September and end in June, with 190 school days per academic year. 

Pre-Elementary Education: ​

Pre-Elementary Education in Canada - First day of School

Source: Youtube

Pre-Elementary or kindergarten is the first year of education for children between the ages of 4 to 6 years. This is the first level before the kids start elementary school. In most provinces of Canada, pre-elementary education is optional. It is a one-year program in a few regions and a two-year program in certain provinces like Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Northwest territories. Both public and private schools offer the Kindergarten program. The curriculum taught is simple reading and writing of alphabets, art, story-time and other fun activities.

Primary Education

Primary education, also known as elementary education, is from grade 1 to grade 6 for children aged 6 to 12 years. Public and private schools offer elementary education. Public schools are fully funded and hence provide free education. The primary education curriculum typically includes language studies, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Physical Education, music, art and hobby classes. Primary education is quite relaxed with only short-term assessments, but the syllabus becomes extensive post 6th grade. 

Intermediate Education

Intermediate education, also called Junior High School, starts immediately after 6th grade. It is a 2-year schooling stage that includes 7th and 8th grade for children aged 12 to 14 years. Intermediate level trains children to get accustomed to optional classes and moving between classrooms for different courses, preparing them for High School education which is more complex.

Secondary Education

Source: Youtube

Secondary education, also called High School, runs from 9th to 12th grade for children aged 14 to 18. This is the most crucial stage of education where students take specialised courses and determine what domain or field they want to choose for their graduation. In Quebec, children attend high school until the 11th grade and then enrol for CEGEP, a 2-year post-secondary college course that is public-funded. International students who do not hold PR status have to pay a tuition fee of $8,000 to $14,000 annually for public school secondary education. However, public school education costs are considerably lower than private school fees.

Post-Secondary Education (Tertiary Education)

Source: Easy Milano

All formal educational programs after secondary education or high school (12th grade), encompassing academic, technical, vocational, language courses, etc., offered by universities and educational institutes fall under post-secondary education. The colleges and universities in Canada charge tuition fees for college education. 

The type of degree programs in Post-Secondary Education include: 

  •  Bachelor’s Degree (Program Duration: 4 – 5 years)
  •  Master’s Degree (Program Duration: 1 – 3 years)
  •  Doctoral Degree (Program Duration: 4 – 6 years)
  •  Postgraduate Diploma or Certification (Program Duration: 1 year)

Undergraduate study leads to a Bachelor’s degree, whereas graduate education leads to a Master’s degree and doctoral degree. Graduate study or graduate program is a popularly used term for education level after a Bachelor’s degree. All Master’s and Doctoral programs are referred to as ”Graduate Programs” or ”Graduate Degrees” in Canada. Graduate education includes research-oriented or course-based programs, teaching or practicum that lead to a Master’s or a Doctoral degree.

Tuition Fees for Undergraduate & Graduate Studies

For international students, the tuition fee for a Bachelor’s degree (undergraduate program) averages around $7,000 to $40,000 annually. Master’s programs cost anywhere between $7,000 to $55,000 per year, and the Doctoral (PhD) program’s annual tuition fee ranges between $7,000 – $15,000. The tuition fee will vary based on province, program type, specialisation, university, etc. The most expensive fields of study in Canada are Business Management, Medicine, Law and STEM courses. However, students have numerous scholarship options that provide partial or complete funding. 

Universities like the Memorial University of Newfoundland, University of Regina, Royal Roads University, and a few others are the most affordable universities in Canada that offer graduate programs for a nominal tuition fee ($2,000 to $11,000 per year). 

Refer to the link below for university tuition fee statistics of international and Canadian students for full-time programs in Arts and Humanities for the academic year 2020-2021.

Types of Post-Secondary Schools

Source: Unsplash

There are different types of educational institutes in Canada for post-secondary education, listed below: 

  • Community Colleges
  • Technical Institutes  
  • Career Colleges
  • Language Schools
  • Universities
  • University Colleges 

Both public-funded and private institutes are located in Canada’s urban and rural provinces. Canadian universities offer undergraduate, graduate and other programs in three intakes: Fall (September), Winter (January) and Summer (May) sessions. Canada has two official languages – English and French. The majority of the institutions offer English-taught programs; some universities offer programs in both English and French, and there are a few universities that offer only French-taught courses. 

Read the below article for detailed information on intakes and application deadlines. 

Read the below article to learn about the prerequisites for graduate studies in Canada. 


Canada ranks in the top 5 destinations for education worldwide. Canadian universities are globally recognized and rank among the top 150 in the world. The institutes are known for their outstanding quality of education in academics, research and professional teaching. Top universities in Canada are on par with some of the best worldwide, delivering the same quality education as Ivy League schools and other leading universities in the USA. The robust public education system in Canada ensures that students get the best education possible from kindergarten till the post-secondary stage. The teachers and professors are experts in their fields, with years of valuable experience, who bestow excellent coaching and training. Being a multicultural nation, working and learning from students from different backgrounds provide a diverse cultural experience, one of the added perks of the education system in Canada.

Check out Canada’s top 10 public universities. 

Christmas Offers

On All Services

Rs.500 Off

Use Coupon Christmas500 for Services​!

Admission Packages

Use Coupon Christmas2020 for Admission Packages​!

All other Services

Rs.500 Off

Use Coupon Christmas500 for Services​!

Need Help With Your MS In Canada?

Submit your details. We’ll call you back in 48 Hours!