The education system in Canada is twofold, with public and private institutions at all levels. In general, education starts in elementary school and continues in secondary school. Children usually start kindergarten at age 4 or 5 and can participate for years 1 or 2. Most students attend the first year at age 6. The school year follows the typical North American program, which starts in September and ends in June. Secondary school can end in either grade 11 or 12, depending on the province. At the national level, education is required at least until the age of 16. Providing public education, however, is the responsibility of the provinces. The age requirement, therefore, could be higher depending on the province. Once secondary school is over,
Canada has about 15.500 primary and secondary schools and 5.3 million registered students. These schools are further subdivided as follows: primary (10,100), secondary (3,400) and mixed primary and secondary (2,000). Each school has an average student body of 350.
Role of government in education
As mentioned, public education is the responsibility of each province. It is provided free to students, as long as the age and residence requirements are met. Each province has a council or independent education department that oversees curriculum, budget and public school staff issues. This council is run by a minister, who is usually elected by the local legislature and officially appointed by the head of local government. The members of the council or department are generally elected by the general public.
Public funding for education in Canada comes from all levels of government (federal, provincial and local). Local communities usually pay a fee to support the local school district. The budget of each school is based on various factors, including the size of the student body, the position and any specific needs of the school or community.
Role of language in the education system
Canada is a bilingual country with two official languages: English and French. Most Francophone citizens live in the province of Quebec. However, the linguistic rights of French-speaking citizens living outside Quebec and English-speaking citizens residing in Quebec are protected by federal law. This protection means that, regardless of where a student resides, they have the right to education provided in their first English or French language. To implement this rule, each province has created specific school councils for French language schools, and Quebec has the same for English language schools.
Role of religion in the education system
Just as the language at school is constitutionally protected in Canada, as is religion, in some cases. The Government of Canada also provides funding for separate religious schools, but only if the school was established before the province officially becomes part of Canada. Today this federal protection is guaranteed only in the 3 provinces: Saskatchewan, Alberta and Ontario. Previously, the provinces of Terranova, Labrador and Ontario had separate religious schools that received public funding. However, these provinces have eliminated the provision.