Schools in Canada

The standard of education in Canada is high, and expats will find an impressive assortment of schooling options.

There is no nationalised system of public education in Canada, and each province and territory is responsible for managing its own curriculum, language, methods of evaluation and accountability policies.

The compulsory education age range can vary between provinces but most set mandatory attendance between the ages of six and 16. There are also private and international schools in Canada, although most expats find the Canadian public education system satisfactory.

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Each territory’s public-school curriculum is a reflection of its population, corresponding with the language, history and culture of the surrounding area. The province of Quebec, for instance, has a predominately French-speaking population, so the primary language of education is French. That being said, expats in Quebec may be able to obtain special authorisation to attend an English school. Other provinces typically offer a choice of English or French education, with the option of extra support for either language.

There are also faith-based public schools, many of which are Catholic. Some of these schools may ask for proof of the child’s baptism in the Catholic faith, or for proof that at least one parent is Catholic, but this is becoming less common.

While some public schools may also offer International Baccalaureate (IB) and US Advanced Placement (AP) curricula, this is certainly not the norm.

Students attend Canadian public schools based on catchment zones, so parents may want to choose their residential neighbourhood based on the school that corresponds with the area.

Though most Canadian citizens use the free public education system, some expats – who can afford it – choose to send their children to private schools.

These institutions are primarily funded by tuition and private donors and usually have better facilities, offer a more diverse range of extra-curricular activities and have smaller class sizes.

Private schools are not bound by provincial education boards and can establish their own curriculum, some claiming different language affiliations, teaching styles and religious value systems. 

International schools teach a foreign curriculum, which in many cases allow children to continue learning in their native language, home curriculum, or according to a distinct educational philosophy.

Waiting lists for international schools can be long, and admission criteria are often strict, so it’s best to apply as early as possible. Tuition for international schools is usually high, so expat parents should ensure that their budget can accommodate the expense.