Elementary and secondary education

Elementary and secondary education are the two basic levels of schooling for children and youth in Canada. All children and youth in Canada have access to free, taxpayer-funded elementary and secondary education at public schools. Most students in Canada attend public schools. There are also private elementary and secondary schools that offer an alternative to the government-run public schools.

By law, children must attend school starting at the age of 5 or 6 and until they reach an age between 16 and 18, depending on the province or territory. Parents have the right, however, to educate their children themselves at home, rather than in a government-run public school or a private school.

Click on your province or territory for contact information for government ministries responsible for education:

Post-secondary education


In Canada, universities are independent institutions that are partly funded by the government although you must still pay tuition fees. Universities offer programs that lead to different types of degrees in many disciplines and subjects. A bachelor’s degree is the basic degree awarded by Canadian universities and generally takes three to four years to complete. A master’s degree is a more advanced degree that usually requires one to three additional years of study. A doctoral degree is the most advanced degree offered by Canadian universities and generally requires three or more years of study and research following a master’s degree.

Colleges and institutes:

There are many types of colleges and institutes. Some are formally recognized by governments, which partly manage them and provide most of their funding out of taxpayer dollars. They have a variety of names: “colleges,” “community colleges,” “colleges of applied arts or applied technology,” “institutes of technology or science,” or “collèges d’enseignement général et professionnel” (CEGEPs) in Quebec. Other colleges and institutes are entirely private and are usually called “career colleges.”

Choosing a program of study and applying to post-secondary institutions:

Universities and colleges that offer degree programs

  • Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada:
    Telephone: 613-563-1236
    Fax: 613-563-9745


Career Colleges

  • National Association of Career Cellges:
    Telephone: 519-753-8689
    Fax: 519-753-4712

Credential recognition:

In many cases, before being able to study in a post-secondary institution in Canada, newcomers need to have their existing educational credentials formally recognized. In other words, you may have to prove that the educational credentials you obtained in your country of origin are equivalent or comparable to similar credentials offered in Canada.


Costs and financial assistance:

Although many post-secondary institutions get some financial support from the government, all students must still pay tuition fees for post-secondary studies. Tuition fees vary depending on the institution and program but are usually between $2,500 and $8,000 a year. The cost may be higher in some cases. In addition to tuition fees, students are responsible for buying course materials such as textbooks and supplies. They must also support themselves and their family during their studies by paying for housing, food, transportation and other expenses. You can find a useful information of the cost of post-secondary education at the Canada Student Financial Assistance Program.

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