Canadian Education System Overview

The Canadian education system is extremely similar to that of the United States during the elementary and high school years, but it differs in its greater emphasis on state funded education in the college and university level of study. The education of the Canadian youth is the responsibility of the individual provinces, and, because the federal government does not regulate every aspect of instruction, rules and regulations vary amongst the different regions; however, every province in Canada mandates school attendance until at least 16 years of age, and Ontario and New Brunswick maintain compulsory education laws for children under 18 years old.

Generally, provincial schools divide students by age into primary schools, secondary schools, and colleges or universities. The primary school division encompasses kindergarten, elementary school, intermediate school, middle school, and junior-secondary school, but no province actually includes each of these sectors; basically, the primary school, as a general term, refers to every grade until the ninth grade throughout the entire country, and enrolment in this segment is required by law in every province. The secondary school is the successive division after the primary school, and it is usually considered a transition between compulsory early schools and colleges or universities; graduation generally requires four years of study. Most of these schools focus on preparing the students for immediate immersion in the workforce or accumulating them to the environment of post-secondary institutions.

Unlike in America where the terms are used interchangeably, Canadian universities and colleges are distinct entities with entirely different foci. While colleges are generally two or three year vocational programs that grant certificates or diplomas in various fields, universities are research facilities that grant four year degrees in multiple different educational majors. Out of all Canadians between the ages of 25 and 64, approximately 53 percent have earned some form of post-secondary diploma, degree, or certificate, making Canada a world leader in its provision of higher education; this is so because the colleges and universities remain highly subsidized by the government in every province.

Though a huge number of secondary school graduates attend excellent universities in every province, the best and brightest attempt to attend one of the Group of Thirteen, a league of Canada's thirteen most prestigious universities. The most popular of the thirteen schools include the University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia, the University of Waterloo, and McGill University; additionally, because of each of these schools' prosperous alumni and prolific research facilities, each member of the group manages enormous budgets from financial endowments and federal grants as compared to other provincial universities. Though the endowments of these schools cannot match those of the American Ivy League colleges, these institutions represent the most financially prosperous schools in all of Canada, and they can match even the most opulent universities of Asia and Europe.