When there are debates about the world’s top performing education systems, the names that usually get mentioned are the Asian powerhouses such as Singapore and South Korea or the Nordic know-alls, such as Finland or Norway.
But with much less recognition, Canada has climbed into the top tier of international rankings.
In the most recent round of international Pisa tests, Canada was one of a handful of countries to appear in the top 10 for maths, science and reading.
The tests, run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), are a major study of educational performance and show Canada’s teenagers as among the best educated in the world.
They are far ahead of geographical neighbours such as the US and European countries with strong cultural ties like the UK and France.
At university level, Canada has the world’s highest proportion of working-age adults who have been through higher education – 55% compared with an average in OECD countries of 35%.
By law, children in Canada must go to school. Depending on the province or territory, children may start at the age of 5 or 6 and continue until they are between 16 and 18.
Schools in Canada:
- start with kindergarten and continue to grades 1 to 12
- usually begin at the end of August and finish around the end of June
- run from Monday to Friday during the school year (except during holidays)
- give high school diplomas to students who successfully complete secondary school (high school)
- can be found in English-language and French-language across the country (even in areas where one language is more commonly spoken than the other)
It’s up to parents to choose the type of
schooling for their children, such as:
- free public schools (for Canadian citizens and permanent residents)
- paid private schools
- at-home education
- English or French schools (in many areas)
School Life in Canada
Teachers: Teachers usually have a university education.
Mixed classes: In most schools, boys and girls learn together in the same classroom. Some private schools are for boys or girls only.
School curriculum: Every province and territory has official course work that students will be taught in each grade.
Religion: Some provinces have separate Catholic public schools and students of any religion can attend. Most communities also have private religious schools.
Textbooks and school supplies: Schools lend textbooks to their students. You will have to buy school supplies like pencils and paper for your children.
Special needs: Students can get help if they have special needs including:
Report cards: Children get a report card several times during the school year that tells you about their progress.
Missing school: Children must go to school every day. If they are absent from school because they are sick or for personal reasons, you must tell the school.
School closures: Schools sometimes close for one or more days in the winter because of snowstorms or severe cold. If this happens, you will hear about the closing:
- through the school
- on the radio
- on television
Dress code: Children must follow the school dress code. Some schools require children to wear a uniform.
Extracurricular activities: These are activities that take place before school, after school or during lunch. They include sports, arts, hobby clubs, etc. Each school offers different extracurricular activities to students. These activities can help your child:
• make friends
• get used to the Canadian school system
• have interests in areas outside school
Field trips: Schools organize field trips outside the school for students to visit places that are relevant to their education. Field trips can be to places such as:
- cultural institutions
- city neighbourhoods
Bullying: This is defined as “wilful, repeated aggressive behaviour with negative intent used by a child to maintain power over another child.” Bullying is not tolerated. If your child is a victim of bullying, talk to their teacher or principal. Learn more about bullying and prevention programs.