Detour to Canada

An Insider’s Look at Canada’s Public School System [Video]


Are you wondering about Canada’s public school system? Is it really free? What age do kids go to school?

Kristine of The Maple Diaries shares some of the information you need to know about Canada’s public school system here in her video. 

But before you proceed, I want to add some things you might be interested to know. Here they are:

  1. Public elementary and high schools are free even for those who are not yet permanent residents. So if you’re coming here as an international student and you have kids, they can go to school for free.
  2. Here in Ontario, sending your kids to kindergarten is optional. But once they turn 6 and until they reach 18, they are required by law to go to school. 
  3. Homeschooling is an acceptable form of education here in Canada. Although each province and territory has their own policies about homeschooling. Here in Ontario, parents are free to use (or not use) any curriculum they want and are not required to report their kids’ progress to the government.
  4. To register your kids, the general process is to first go to the district school board’s website or office where you’d be advised which school your kid should attend based on your home address. Then you can register your kids to their respective school through the instructions to be given to you by the district school board or the school principal, whichever applies.

 Watch Kristine’s video below to find out more.

Note: This video’s actual transcription slightly varies from the one below.

One of the main reasons why so many people move to Canada is for a better quality of education for their children. In fact, Canada has been consistently recognized as part of the top 5 countries that offers the best education globally.

In this video, I’m sharing all the information that you need to know about the education system in Canada. So, let’s get started!

Canadian School System Ages

Depending on the province, children are typically required to attend school starting as young as four up until the age of 18 (at the latest). 

Level Ages

Primary (kindergarten to grade eight) 4-14

Secondary (grade nine to twelve) 14-18

Post-secondary (college or university) 17+ 

What is the School Year in Canada?

The school year usually begins the first week of September until the end of June. However, you can find some year-round schools or schools that run from mid-August to the end of May. My daughter attends a French catholic school and they always start earlier than the rest of other schools here in Ottawa. 

School Hours

Classes at Canadian schools are from Monday to Friday. In primary school, school is from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with an hour for lunch. Two 15-minute recess breaks are also given. High school is from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. with extracurricular actives and sports scheduled for after school hours.

Canada’s Grading System

Grades in Canada depend on the province and territory where your child is attending school.

Here in Ontario, we follow this grading system:

Grade Scale

A+ 90-100

A 80-89.99

B 70-79.99

C 60-69.99

D 50-59.99

What Age Do You Start Kindergarten?

In Ontario, children can start school at four or five, and be enrolled in two years of kindergarten (divided into junior and senior kindergarten). My daughter went to preschool when she was only 3 yrs old since my husband and I were both working. Then by age of 4, she had started her JK class. 

School Cost

While kindergarten is free in Canada, preschools, daycare, and childcare in Canada are private. This means they receive little funding, if any at all, from the government. 

Preschools in Canada can cost anywhere around $1000 CAD to $1300 per month. 

Childcare fees in Canada can cost an average of 40 CAD (30 USD) per child (or 57 CAD (42 USD) per day) in provinces like Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta.

Type of schools

  1. Public school

The Canadian public education system is robust, well-funded, and managed provincially. Therefore, some elements of the school system in Canada can vary slightly from province to province. That being said, education is overseen by the federal government and they ensure that education standards remain consistently high across the country.

  • government taxpayers money
  • 95% kids goes to Canada
  • No tuition fee
  • No transportation fee 
  • No uniform

Keep in mind that there’s a cost when you sign up your child with the before and after school  program. In our experience we have to sign up our daughter in the morning and afternoon program since my husband and I were both working.

Sometimes, schools charge small fees for your child to participate in extra activities, such as sports teams or school outings. Most children bring their own lunch to school, however, some schools offer cafeterias or hot lunch programs where your child may purchase a meal.

  1. Private school – Some parents prefer sending their kids to private schools because they’re concerned of overcrowding on public schools. Most private schools have a smaller class size compared to public schools. Average tuition cost may vary.

Requirements for school admission:

  • Child vaccination record – very important most especially for immigrants
  • School transfer certificate (if applicable)
  • Birth certificate
  • Proof of residence

On a personal note, this was the basis of our school choice for our daughter when we moved here in Canada 3 years ago.

First is location, my daughter’s school is only a 6-min walk from home

And second is the school rank, we have 3 schools in our neighborhood. However, we’ve also considered checking the Ontario Schools Ranking  and we found out that my daughter’s school has the highest score compared with the other schools in the neighbourhood. She’s now attending a French catholic school since we also want her to be bilingual.

So far, here are my observations with the Canadian school system:

  • My daughter is now on her first grade this school year. She has no books, no notebooks! There’s only a school list provided by the school which we need to only include in her school bag.
  • Nutrition – no peanuts allowed



About Kristine:

Kristine Kasselis is the creator behind The Maple Diaries, a YouTube channel where she shares her newcomer’s journey as an immigrant here in Canada. Watch more of her videos and don’t forget to subscribe.

Do you have questions or feedback about this video? Let us know in the comments!


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