Canadian Education System

As in the United States, education in Canada is considered a local responsibility. Provinces have primary oversight over their education systems. 5.4 percent of Canada’s GDP is spent on education, with a heavy emphasis on tertiary education.
School Year
The school year in Canada lasts from early September, around Labour Day, to the end of June. Canadian students have 190 days of school each year, except for those in Quebec, who have 180.
Compulsory Education
Education is compulsory until age 16 in all provinces except Manitoba, Ontario, and New Brunswick, where schooling is compulsory until age 18 or until a student has received his or her high school diploma. Students typically begin school at the age of five (kindergarten) or six (grade one).
Language and Religion
Being able to learn in your own language and religion at a public school is considered a right in Canada. You will find some major cities have as many as four school boards – English secular, English Catholic, French secular, and French Catholic. French and English schools can be found in every province, with the most French schools located in Quebec. Additionally, immersion programs and bilingual schools are widespread throughout Canada. Bilingual schools are most often English/French, but in Western Canada especially other bilingual programs, like English/Chinese, have emerged.
Grade Levels
The grade levels for all provinces other than Quebec are similar.

Early Childhood

Pre-Kindergarten (ages 3-5)—unique to Ontario


Grade 1 (6-7)
Grade 2 (7-8)
Grade 3 (8-9)
Grade 4 (9-10)
Grade 5 (10-11)
Grade 6 (11-12)

Junior High/Middle School

Grade 7 (12-13)
Grade 8 (13-14)
Grade 9 (14-15)

High School

Grade 10 (15-16)
Grade 11 (16-17)
Grade 12 (17-18)

Groupings of grade levels may vary by province. Some will have middle schools that comprise grades 6-8, whereas others follow the junior/senior high system.


Pre-school/préscolaire (under age 5)

Kindergarten/maternelle (5-6)

Grade school/école primaire

Grade 1 (6-7)
Grade 2 (7-8)
Grade 3 (8-9)
Grade 4 (9-10)
Grade 5 (10-11)
Grade 6 (11-12)

High school/école secondaire

Grade 7 /Secondary 1 (12-13)
Grade 8/Secondary 2 (13-14)
Grade 9/Secondary 3 (14-15)
Grade 10/Secondary 4 (15-16)
Grade 11/Secondary 5 (16-17)


CEGEP 1 (17-18)

CEGEP 2 (18-19)

CEGEP, or Collège d’enseignement général et professionnel (College of General and Vocational Education), is a pre-college university program unique to Quebec. Students from Quebec wishing to receive post-secondary education either in or outside of Quebec must first enroll in and complete a CEGEP program for at least one year. Quebecois students may not attend university with just a secondary education diploma; they must have completed a CEGEP program as well. Quebecois students who have completed CEGEP can then enroll at a Quebec university and complete their Bachelor’s in three years.

Learn more about the CEGEP system here.

Grading System
The grading system in Canada differs from that in the United States. Each province uses its own system, so it’s important to keep in mind which provinces your Canadian applicants come from. Most notably, grades between 90 and 100 are typically considered to be an A+, and grades in the 80’s are an A. Treat a student with an over 90 grade average like an honors student who is getting over a 4.0.

Learn more about the High School Grading system here.

Universities are varied in their grading systems, and you need to reference each university’s website to understand their scale. This is not set on a provincial level. For example, the two major universities in Ottawa have different grading scales. University of Ottawa (10.0) and Carleton University (12.0).

The grade from a CEGEP is called an R score. The equation to find the R Score is a bit complicated and is explained in detail here. The 90th percentile of students have a 34 or greater. The 50th percentile have 27.