Answering common questions about education in Canada for your children

Julia Hornstein
Published: June 7, 2023

Canada is known for the quality of its education and schooling systems. When it comes to your child’s education, you should do research before coming to Canada to determine what school would be the best fit for your child.

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Education is Canada is managed at the provincial level, so the school system differs between provinces. Even within a province, education can vary between types of schools and school districts.

This article will answer some questions you may have about the Canadian education system.

What types of schools does Canada have?

Canada has public schools in all its provinces and territories. All children are entitled to a free public education, meaning there is no fee to enrol your child in a public school.

Public schools tend to serve a particular area within a neighbourhood, so the school your child can attend will depend on where you live. Public schools are available in both official languages.

Private and independent schools exist in Canada as well. These schools charge tuition to attend. Some private schools offer scholarships for students who display special academic, artistic or athletic abilities who otherwise would not have the funds to enrol.

Some private schools are day schools and others are boarding schools, which means the student will live on campus with fellow students.

Canada also has French immersion schools, which are public schools that teach predominantly non-native French speakers in French. The students are expected to become fluent over time and French immersion is an excellent way for your child to become bilingual.

Catholic, Jewish and other religious schools integrate religious education as a core subject in their curriculum. They may have specific admission requirements, and can be public or private depending on the province you are in.

When does school take place each year in Canada?

Elementary and secondary schools in Canada typically start in late August or early September and the year usually ends in June. The months of July and August are summer vacation and most public schools have time off over the holiday season as well as a week in March

The typical school day in Canada starts from between 8 am and 9 am and will last until 3 pm and 4 pm.

What subjects will my child learn in school?

Canadian provinces set the curriculum for their schools, so the subjects may differ among provinces. However, your child will learn a range of subjects including math, science, English, French, history/social studies, art and physical education.

As your child goes through the education system, they will have more opportunity to choose what classes they take depending on their interests and what they excel at.

How do I register my child for school?

To register your child for a public school, you should contact the local school district office or the school board to find out what the process is for enrolling your child. It is important to contact the school board as early as possible because there may be limited spaces available, and you may have to find another option for your child.

If you want to register your child for a private school, you should contact the school directly.

If you are enrolling your child for the first time. The school board or school itself will likely want to have your child complete some form of assessment to understand where your child is at academically and what level is appropriate for them. It can allow the school to determine if your child would benefit from any additional resources the school may offer, like language training.

What supplies do I need to get for my child?

Usually, your child’s school will give you a list of supplies you need to get for the school year. Sometimes the school will provide certain supplies, others you will need to purchase on your own.

In addition to classroom supplies like notebooks and pencils, some things you may want to consider getting include:

  • Clothing: some schools have a uniform or dress code that dictates what your child is allowed to wear
  • Athletic clothes: physical education is part of most curriculums, so your child will need proper gym attire
  • Backpack
  • Electronics such as a laptop or tablet

How will my child get to school?

School boards in Canada manage school bus routes that will bring your child back and forth from school. The bus routes will depend on where you live and will usually only service areas within a certain zone/distance from the school. You can also take your child to school yourself.

Depending on your child’s age, they can get to school on their own by walking, taking public transportation, driving, or biking.

What will my child eat at school? Do I need to provide lunch?

Students will eat lunch during the day at school and have breakfast and dinner at home. Each school will have different lunch options. Some public schools have a cafeteria with lunch available for purchase, while some private schools include lunches in the school fees.

Some students can bring their own lunches, but you should make sure this is allowed at the school. Some schools will make exceptions for students who have severe allergies or have food restrictions (kosher, halal, etc.).

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