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ICIEP Guide > Education abroad > Study in Canada

A World of Opportunity


Canada is a world leader in education. Both publicly-funded and private Canadian education institutions are highly regarded in business, government and academic circles around the world. As well, tuition fees in Canada are very competitive when compared to Europe, the United States and Australia - making Canadian education a high quality, affordable choice for international students.


In Canada, education is a provincial responsibility, which means that there are slight differences between the education systems of each province and territory. However, standards for education are uniformly high across the country. Generally, children start kindergarten at the age of four or five on a voluntary basis. All children must be enrolled in primary school (grade one) at five or six. Secondary schools go up to grade 12 in all provinces, except for Quebec, where they continue to grade 11. Some private schools for international students in Quebec may have grade 12, but that is an exception. From here, students may attend university, college or CEGEP. CEGEP is a French acronym for College of General and Vocational Education, and consists of two to three years of technical education between high school and university. The school year generally runs from September to June, but in many instances, January intake dates are possible.

Public & Private Secondary Schools


Many public schools in Canada welcome international students into their programs. These schools are managed at the local level by elected school boards. Almost all are co-educational and offer day programs only. Most school boards offer secular or non-religious education, while some have religious affiliations. Admission policies for international students and program fees vary from district to district.

Private schools are an alternative to the public school system. They can be found in every province and must be registered with the local Ministry of Education to ensure that they meet the standards and curriculum requirements set by their respective ministries. Families can choose co-educational programs or gender-specific schools, as well as boarding or day schools. Many private schools adhere to a particular religious faith or may emphasise certain moral or ethical teachings. Most apply rigorous academic standards.

Universities & University Colleges


Canada has a large and diverse selection of universities and university colleges, located in urban and rural settings in every region of the country. Our universities are internationally renowned for their high quality of teaching and research. Degrees from Canadian universities are considered to be equivalent to those from American and other Commonwealth institutions. They maintain a consistent level of excellence due to public funding. Canadian universities offer a wide selection of courses and a full range of degrees, from undergraduate to doctoral. They also grant certificates and professional degrees. The university year usually runs from September to May, but many schools are on a semester or trimester system with both January and September intakes. Each university sets its own admission standards and assesses the qualifications of each applicant individually. There is no Canada-wide entrance test. As Canada has two official languages - English and French - an international student may work towards a degree at an institution in both languages. Students do not, however, have to be fluent in both English and French to attend a Canadian university. To qualify for a degree program at most English-speaking universities, students for whom English is not a first language must pass a proficiency exam.

University colleges offer academically-oriented university degree programs or practically-oriented college diplomas and certificates. Students can expect to find a wide range of program choices including English as a Second Language (ESL) studies. These schools benefit from strong student support services and small classes. Many also offer combined degree/diploma programs and university transfer programs.

Community Colleges & Technical Institutes


There is a wide range of two to three-year (or shorter) college programs offering specific vocationally-oriented curricula, as well as general academic concentrations. Colleges typically have smaller classes, off-campus course offerings and a greater ratio of laboratory space to classroom space. Employment-related programs, including apprenticeship and continuing education courses, often maintain varying entry levels and range from technologies to creative arts. Several institutions also offer university transfer courses that are directly transferable into a university program, and some even offer applied or full degree programs.

Career Colleges

A technical/career college is a privately owned and operated school with the main objective of preparing students for the job market after a short period of instruction. The emphasis at these schools is on practical skills, specializing in specific areas such as business, computer and secretarial skills. Although privately owned, career colleges are provincially approved and regulated.

ESL/FSL Programs


Canada has two official languages, meaning that international students may come to Canada to study either English as a Second Language (ESL) or French as a Second Language (FSL). As a multicultural country, Canada has developed considerable expertise in delivering language programs to newcomers. Many people choose to study ESL in Canada because of the excellent language schools across the country and neutral Canadian accent. Students can study English or French for general, business or specific purposes. ESL programs are available throughout Canada, while the majority of FSL programs are offered in the province of Quebec. Language schools are very flexible in terms of program requirements and intake dates.

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