Education system in Canada

Education system in Canada

Canada is a top country for quality, accessible education for international students. To understand Canada’s educational levels, you will need first to understand the program you are interested in.

Canada is one of the three top countries spending per capita on higher education. Canada’s high-quality, affordable education is one of the main reasons it is so popular with students. Let’s learn more about Canada’s education system.

Study levels in Canada

The provincial governments can manage the education system in Canada. The study levels and educational stages might lie in different clusters.

Elementary & Secondary Education

Canada’s law requires all children to go to school. The school year for children starts at age five or six and lasts at least until the time the child turns 16. Canadian children start school at the age of five or six and continue school until they turn 16. The system is made up of twelve grades. After completing Grade 12, a person receives a high school diploma. These allow them to be eligible for postsecondary education (college or university span>).

Canada has both public and private schools. The Canadian government fully funds public schools and teaches government-mandated curriculums. Private schools can offer specialized programs and curriculums, but they charge many student tuition fees.

Canadian students are only eligible to go to college or university after receiving their high school diploma. A foreign national who wants to study at a Canadian university or college should also be able to show that they have a high school diploma.

Types Of Post-Secondary Education

Postsecondary education is an educational program at a level higher than the secondary and elementary school systems. There are many types of postsecondary education, each with its purpose.


A university is an institution that is licensed to award degrees. Each university offers Bachelor’s degree programs. Many universities also provide Masters’s and Ph.D. programs.


A college is a postsecondary educational institution that cannot award degrees. They offer programs that lead to certificates or diplomas. However, there are exceptions. College programs tend to be more career-oriented than those provided by universities. College graduates may receive hands-on training and invaluable skills for their future careers, such as graphic design or culinary skills. Many colleges offer courses to improve employability and skills, such as language training. Many colleges provide apprenticeships or training programs in skilled trade occupations such as welding or carpentry.

Trade School/Apprenticeships

A skilled trade is a specialty occupation that requires formal education and hands-on training. Skilled trades do not require a Bachelor’s degree. Trade schools are usually smaller programs that are part of vocational schools or colleges. Apprentices work closely with an experienced tradesperson to improve their trade skills. An apprentice is also possible after a tradesperson has received sufficient training.

Vocational School

Vocational schools may offer educational programs at the secondary or postsecondary levels. Therefore, a high school diploma is not required to be able to enter vocational school. Vocational programs provide students with the skills necessary to do the job. These programs prepare students to enter the workforce in either skilled or low-skilled positions.

Different terms refer to different types of schools at postsecondary levels. These terms can be used in other countries. For example, a college could refer to one type in Canada and another in France. Sometimes these schools overlap; colleges can be associated with universities or trade schools within colleges.

What’s an Associate Degree in Canada?

An associate degree is a degree that a university or college awards after completing a two-year course of study. British Columbia is the only Canadian province that offers associate degrees. Students can earn a two-year associate degree and then complete a Bachelor’s degree program.

Associate degrees are not offered outside of British Columbia. However, diplomas and certificates from other provinces can be used to transfer into Bachelor’s programs.

Understanding Undergraduate vs. Graduate Education

There are many levels of university degrees. All Bachelor’s Degree programs can be considered undergraduate programs. A Bachelor’s Degree program is more general in scope. It focuses on a particular field but does not specialize in it. A Master’s degree or Ph.D. program, on the other hand, is called graduate education. Graduate programs tend to be smaller and more specialized, with a strong emphasis on research.

Understanding Certificate vs. Diploma

A certificate and a diploma are different because of how long the program is. Both levels of education offer students training to enter a particular occupation. Certification requires two years of full-time study at the same institution as a certificate. Some schools also offer advanced diplomas. These require at least three years of full-time study.

Levels of Education in Quebec

Quebec’s education system is slightly different. Except for Quebec, elementary school and secondary school are twelve grades in every province. A student who completes Grade Twelve is eligible to graduate from secondary school and receive a diploma. They can only be eligible for postsecondary education after completing high school.

Quebec’s elementary and secondary schools are only composed of 11 grades. After completing Grade Eleven, a person receives a secondary school certificate. Quebec offers a second level of education between the undergraduate and secondary schools. CEGEP is the College d’enseignement général et professionnel. CEGEPs allow students to choose a program that leads to a Diplome d’etudes collegial (DEC). There are two types in the CEGEP system:

  1. Preuniversity: These two-year programs prepare students to enter university programs.
  2. Tech: These programs last three years and immediately prepare graduates to enter the workforce.

Only students from Quebec can start an undergraduate university program if they have completed a CEGEP program. It is important to note that a Quebec student can only earn a Bachelor’s degree after completing a CEGEP program. However, the rest of Canada requires four years of full-time study to obtain a bachelor’s.

Types of higher institutions in Canada

Various institutions in Canada offer different types of qualifications.

  • University – Students can apply to receive an undergraduate degree, certificate or diploma, and professional degrees in Canadian universities.
  • Universities colleges: These programs include university transfer and diploma programs.
  • Community college: Students can earn certificates, diplomas, or associate degrees in community colleges.
  • Technical colleges and career opportunities: Diploma and certificate offered for technical education.

Co-operative education

This unique platform combines classroom-based education with practical work experience, resulting in more structured and pragmatic learning. This program is an attractive option for international students who don’t want to be confined to a lecture-based education. You will need a work permit to work in 50% of the program.

Academic year

The central intake in Canada in September, which sees the highest number of student applications. Although most universities and colleges offer the September/January intake, some may also offer the Summer intake, which starts in April/May.

Pedagogy in Canadian classrooms

Canadian universities are committed to providing students with a holistic experience that will help them improve their careers, learning, and personal life. Canadian education is built on active participation, research, analysis, and presentation via assignments, lab tests, and presentations. The classes are a mixture of tutorials, lectures, and lab sessions with a student population of between 30 and 200. Also, courses may be attended by a more significant number of students than tutorials. Still, they are more effective and easier to understand.

Tuition fee

Canada has the lowest tuition rates compared to Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.

You will need to pay tuition fees between CAD 7,000-CAD 29,000 per year (indicative cost). These are just guidelines, and prices will vary depending on the program and institution you apply for and your lifestyle.

Learn more about the full cost of studying in Canada

Financial aid

Students can apply for financial aid in Canada. These include scholarships, bursaries, and tuition waivers. The type and amount of the reward vary between institutions and programs. We recommend that you start the process about 8-12 months before your preferred intake to ensure that you are eligible for a scholarship.

These are a list of scholarship opportunities that you may be eligible for based on your level of study.

For undergraduates (UG)

  • Merit-based scholarship
  • Provincial Government scholarship
  • College Need-based bursaries and grants
  • Tuition waiver
  • Commonwealth scholarship
  • Private/Organisational scholarship

For Postgraduates (PG)

  • Merit-based scholarship
  • Provincial Government scholarship
  • Research associate-ship
  • Professional Development award
  • Fellowship
  • Teaching assistantship
  • Commonwealth scholarship
  • Private/Organisational scholarship