Kindergarten to 12th grade

Elementary and secondary education

Adult secondary education: Adults who haven’t completed elementary or secondary education can take adult education programs. Some teach how to read and write and others get you a high school diploma. Contact the ministry or department of education in the province or territory where you live for more information.

By law, children in Canada must go to school. Depending on the province or territory, children may start at the age of 5 or 6 and continue until they are between 16 and 18.

Schools in Canada:

  • start with kindergarten and continue to grades 1 to 12
  • usually begin at the end of August and finish around the end of June
  • run from Monday to Friday during the school year (except during holidays)
  • give high school diplomas to students who successfully complete secondary school (high school)
  • can be found in English-language and French-language across the country (even in areas where one language is more commonly spoken than the other)

If you and your family arrive in Canada during the school year, contact your local school board to find a place for your children.

It’s up to parents to choose the type of schooling for their children, such as:

  • free public schools
  • paid private schools
  • at-home education
  • English or French schools (in many areas)

To find out more, contact the ministry in charge of education in your province or territory.

School boards

Schools within a certain local area are managed by school boards, also called:

  • school districts
  • school divisions
  • district education councils

School boards are in charge of things like:

  • buildings
  • staff
  • administration
  • student enrolment

The public elects the people who run a school board. They are called trustees. They hold regular meetings where members of the public can express their views on how schools in their area are managed.

Enrolling in school

To enrol your child in elementary or high school, contact your local school board. Since school boards usually manage many schools, you may be able to choose the school that your children will go to.

To get into the school you prefer, make sure to enrol them well before the school year begins.

If you’re enrolling your children in a Canadian school for the first time, the school or school board will:

  • assess them
  • decide:
    • what level they should be placed at
    • whether they need free support such as English or French language classes

There are also settlement workers in many schools who can help.

You can find out more about elementary and high schools in Canada on the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials (CICIC) website.

Getting involved in your child’s education

Parents are encouraged to support their child’s education by getting involved with the school and school board. This is an opportunity to meet people, become part of the school community and express your opinions on what is taught in your child’s school. You can get involved by:

  • volunteering at your child’s school
  • meeting your child’s teacher at parent-teacher evenings
  • becoming a member of the school council

Ask the school for more information on how you can get involved.