Elementary and secondary education

Education in Canada usually starts with kindergarten followed by grades 1 to 12. By law, children must go to school starting at the age of 5 or 6 and until they are between 16 and 18, depending on the province or territory.

Students go from primary to secondary school between grades 6 and 8, depending on the province or territory. Students who successfully complete secondary school get a high school diploma.

The school year usually begins at the end of August and finishes toward the end of June. Children go to school from Monday to Friday during the school year (except during holidays). If you and your family arrive in Canada during the school year, contact your local school board to find a place for your children.

Since Canada is a bilingual country, English-language and French-language schools are available across the country (even in areas where one language is more commonly spoken than the other).

You should contact the ministry or department of education of the province or territory in which you will be living to learn more about English-language and French-language education options that may be available to you.

It is up to parents to choose the type of schooling for their children. Parents can choose to send their children to free public schools or pay to send them to private schools. In many areas, parents can choose between English and French school options. Parents also have the right to educate children at home, rather than in a school. For more information, contact the ministry responsible for education in your province or territory.

School boards

School boards (sometimes called school districts, school divisions or district education councils) manage the schools within a certain local area. School boards are responsible for things like:

  • administration;
  • facilities;
  • personnel; and
  • student enrolment.

The public elects the people who run a school board (called trustees). They hold regular meetings where members of the public can express their views on how schools in their area are managed.

Enrolling in school

To enrol your child in elementary or secondary school, contact your local school board. Since school boards usually manage many schools, you may be able to choose the school that your children will go to.

More information on elementary and secondary schools in Canada can be found on the website of the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials (CICIC).

To get into the school you prefer, make sure to enrol them well before the beginning of the school year. If you are enrolling your children in a Canadian school for the first time, the school or school board will assess them to determine what level they should be placed at and whether they need free support such as English or French language classes. There are also settlement workers in many schools who can help.

Education video

This video offers information about:

  • English language classes
  • Translation and evaluation of your previous education
  • Enrolling your children in school

To watch the video, select your language and the topic “Education”.

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