Education in Canada is compulsory from the age of 5 until the age of 18, or until graduation from secondary school. The education system is not run by the federal government; each province and territory within Canada have separate departments of education.
Canada consists of 13 provinces and territories and in terms of education, these each have different systems and regulations regarding child and adult studies. There are only slight differences between education systems, including the order of education, the different options available, the curriculum taught throughout primary and secondary schools, and how they are assessed.
Education in Canada is considered to be a right and therefore public education is free to all citizens who meet the age and residency requirements within a province or territory. Members within an education department are elected by public ballot, and each province or territory has at least one department responsible for education. Between 2005 and 2006, a total of $75.7 billion was spent across all levels of education, which made up a total of 16.1 percent of public expenditure.
There are around 15,500 schools across Canada, including both primary and secondary education facilities, with an average of 350 students enrolled at each school. Around 5.3 million students attend public schools every year. Canada is a bilingual country, with both French and English being spoken across the country. Quebec is home to 85 percent of the French population living in Canada and therefore, most schools teach in French. Any English students living in the province are protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, meaning that they still have the right to access education in their mother tongue.
Primary education starts at 5 years old and is compulsory, with almost 98 percent of students carrying through to secondary school. The focus is on core subjects, such as math and science, with social studies and an introduction to arts also being taught.
The graduate rate of students from secondary education in 2003 was 74 percent, with the dropout rate falling below 10 percent. In the first few years of secondary education, core subjects are still compulsory with limited options being available as an extra study. As students continue through education, more subjects become available for specific courses suited to the student and to prepare them for the job market.
At university or college level, students can earn a degree, diploma, certificate or attestation. There are 163 universities across the country with $30.6 billion public expenditure going towards funding higher education. Both public expenditure and student fees fund universities and currently, domestic students pay about $4,500 for one year of tuition.
Canada continues to offer vocational education and training. It is offered in secondary schools and in public colleges in order for students to prepare for the workforce, a post-secondary program, or an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships were previously aimed towards adults, but in more recent years, young people have started to focus on them and have become more involved.
In terms of student performance, education in Canada has consistently ranked among the top ten. It is considered to be a system that is welcoming to students with diverse backgrounds. The social belief in education for all is reflected within the system as it offers many different levels of education and is easily accessible to all citizens.
– Georgia Boyle