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Educational System in Canada

The one tip that you hear expats living in Canada repeatedly sharing with newcomers is not to buy a home when you first move to Canada. Rent for a few months or longer so that you have time to find the right neighborhood. Give yourself time to ensure that Canada is right for you for the long term. If you've already taken time to do those things and are ready to take the plunge and become a property owner, here are tips about buying a home in Canada.
|-Educational System in Canada

Canada is renowned for its high-quality education system, which is publicly funded and overseen by provincial, territorial, and local governments. Education is compulsory up to the age of 16 in most provinces, 18 in others, and children can start attending school at the age of 5. The system is divided into several stages, each designed to cater to the developmental needs of students at different ages. This guide aims to provide expats with a comprehensive understanding of the Canadian educational system, including the main stages of education, enrollment procedures, language requirements, and options for private, bilingual, and online schooling.

What are the main stages of education in Canada?

The Canadian education system is divided into three main stages: primary education (elementary school), secondary education (high school), and post-secondary education (college and university). Primary education typically starts at age 5 or 6 and continues until age 13 or 14. Secondary education then takes over until age 18. Post-secondary education includes a wide range of options, from vocational training to bachelor’s and graduate degrees.

Primary Education (Elementary School)

Primary education in Canada, also known as elementary school, typically begins at age 5 or 6 with kindergarten and continues until grade 8 (around age 13 or 14). This stage focuses on building foundational skills in core subjects such as mathematics, language arts, science, social studies, and physical education. Some schools also offer programs in arts and foreign languages.

Secondary Education (High School)

Secondary education, or high school, generally covers grades 9 to 12 (ages 14 to 18). High school curriculum is more specialized, allowing students to choose elective courses in addition to mandatory subjects. The goal is to prepare students for post-secondary education or the workforce. Upon successful completion, students receive a high school diploma.

How does a newcomer from a different country enroll their kids in school?

Newcomers can enroll their children in Canadian schools by contacting the local school board in their area. They will need to provide proof of their child’s age and residency, such as a birth certificate or passport, and a utility bill or lease agreement. Some provinces may also require immunization records. It’s advisable to contact the school or school board directly for specific enrollment procedures.

Can children still learning English or French enroll in a public school?

Yes, children who are still learning English or French can enroll in public schools in Canada. Many schools offer English as a Second Language (ESL) or French as a Second Language (FSL) programs to help non-native speakers. Some provinces also have newcomer reception centres where students are assessed and given language support before starting school.

Are there public bilingual schools?

Yes, Canada has public bilingual schools, particularly in areas with high French-speaking populations like Quebec and New Brunswick. These schools teach in both English and French. Admission requirements vary, so it’s best to contact the school directly for information.

What types of private schools are common in Canada?

Canada has a variety of private schools, including religious schools (such as Catholic and Jewish schools), international schools, Montessori schools, and Waldorf schools. There are also private bilingual and immersion schools that offer instruction in multiple languages.

Do expats typically send their children to public or private school?

The choice between public and private school depends on individual circumstances and preferences. Some expats prefer private schools for their smaller class sizes, specialized programs, or religious instruction. Others choose public schools for their diversity and the opportunity for their children to integrate into Canadian society.

How expensive are Private schools in Canada?

Private school tuition in Canada can vary widely, from a few thousand dollars per year to over $30,000 for prestigious boarding schools. It’s important to research and consider additional costs such as uniforms, textbooks, and extracurricular activities.

Are you allowed to homeschool while living in Canada?

Yes, homeschooling is legal in all provinces and territories in Canada. However, regulations vary by province, so it’s important to check local laws. Some provinces require parents to submit a curriculum or learning plan, while others have more relaxed requirements.

May kids attend online school instead of a local school while living in Canada?

Yes, online schooling is an option in Canada. Some provinces offer public online schools, and there are also private online schools available. This can be a good option for families who travel frequently or prefer a more flexible schedule. However, it’s important to ensure the online school is accredited and meets provincial education standards.

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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