UNDERSTANDING AND USING EDUCATION SYSTEMS IN CANADA
Education Systems Quiz
Check your answers below.
1. Easy Question:
All public schools provide the same quality of education.
a) True b) False
2. Easy Question:
In Canada, parents can choose to educate their children at home.
a) True b) False
3. More Difficult:
In Canada, it is parents’ responsibility to choose a good school for their children. Once they choose a good school, some families move to the neighbourhood where the school is located.
a) True b) False
4. More Difficult:
It is important that your child participates in extracurricular activities.
a) True b) False
If your goal is to find a job right after graduating, it is better to go to…
a) college b) university
Plumber, carpenter, construction millwright, drywall finisher and plasterer, floor covering installer, electrician are…
a) low paying jobs in Canada b) high paying jobs in Canada
Check your answers below.
How to Use Education Systems in Canada
Canadian education system differs from those in other countries in several ways. New immigrants may be surprised to learn that there is no one national education system in this country and there are significant differences in the quality of education offered by various public schools. In Canada, parents are considered responsible for their children’s education and have the right to educate their children at home or send them to a private school.
Colleges and universities in Canada are not government institutions – they operate more like private businesses, competing for best students. Canadian colleges mostly offer career-oriented programs that are highly valued by employers.
Elementary and Secondary School
It may surprise many immigrants to learn that, in Canada, there is no federal department of education and no national system of education. Each province and territory has its own system. The education systems are generally similar across Canada, with some variations between provinces and territories.
Provincial and territorial governments are responsible for all aspects of elementary and secondary (high school) education but they give the actual responsibility to manage schools to the ‘school boards’ in each area. The people who run the school boards (called the ‘trustees’) are elected by the public. What this means for parents is that some schools are much better than others. In Canada, parents have the primary responsibility for educating their children. Those parents who really want to give their child a better education often choose a school that has a good reputation and then move to that neighbourhood so that their child could attend that particular school (where a family lives determines which school a child can go to). There are often waiting lists for popular schools, so the parents need to make sure that they enroll their kids well before the beginning of the school year.
In Canada, the parents have three options: to send their child to a public school, to send them to a private school or to educate them at home. By law, children must attend school starting at the age of 5 or 6 and until they reach an age between 16 and 18, depending on the province or territory. Students go from primary (elementary) school to secondary (high) school between the grades 6 and 8, again, depending on the province or territory. Students who successfully complete secondary school receive a high school diploma.
Some facts about Canadian schools:
Field trips: A school will organize trips to visit some places that they think are relevant to children’s education. Some trips are free and some could cost several hundred dollars. The child and/or the parents can opt out of (decide not to go on) these trips.
Extracurricular activities: These are activities that take place outside of school hours (before school, after school or during lunch). They include sports, arts, hobby clubs, etc. Different schools offer different extracurricular activities, and that’s why it’s so important to choose a good school for your child. It is very important that your child participates in these activities – for their physical and mental health and well being, as well as when applying to a college or university and eventually applying for their first job.
Bullying: Bullying is an unfortunate really in most Canadian schools. It is very important that the parent and the child have a good, trusting relationship within the family so that the child can share with you if they are being bullied. As a parent, if a child faces such harassment, you can ask the school to move your child to a different class (but the school might not be willing to accommodate you because of the numbers) or you can move your child to a different school.
Dress code: Most public schools allow children to wear their own clothes. However, there are some guidelines about what children may wear. Most private schools require their students to wear uniforms.
School closures: Schools sometimes close for one or more days in winter because of snowstorms or severe cold. If this happens, announcements are made on the local radio and TV to inform parents that their children must stay home that day.
Report cards: Several times a year each school prepares report cards to inform parents about their child’s progress. Parent must sign those cards.
Summer camps: During the summer holidays, many parents send their kids to ‘summer camps’. There are ‘day camps’ where a child spends a day and comes back home for the night, and there are also longer terms camps where a child can live for several days or weeks. If both parents are working and the children are younger than 12 years old, by law the children cannot stay home alone, so they need to be sent to a camp. The camps offer activities such as sports, tech, arts and music but many also focus on developing useful skills, such as leadership, that will serve kids well in the future.
Drop out rate: About 9% of children in Canada drop out of high school. If a child chooses not to complete high school, they can do it later at the so called ‘adult high school’ and get their diploma.
Colleges and Universities
After completing high school, your child can continue his or her education at a college or a university. This is called ‘post-secondary education’. All colleges and universities are independent businesses, even though some of them are partially funded by the government. Some of these institutions are ‘recognized’, which means the government has given them the authority to grant degrees, diplomas, certificates and other qualifications. Other institutions do not go through the government quality control process, so they are not officially recognized. However, it doesn’t mean that the quality of the education there is worse – it could actually be really good. What ultimately determines if an institution is a good choice for a student or not is the college’s or university’s reputation with employers.
Post-secondary institutions terms are September to December and January to April. Summer courses are usually offered as well for those who want to continue studying in summer months. The basic degree awarded in Canada is the so called ‘Bachelor’s Degree’ (three to four years to complete), the next level is Master’s Degree (one or two additional years) and the highest degree is a doctoral degree (Ph.D.) which requires three or more additional years of study.
College or University?
Many colleges in Canada have a very good reputation with employers. They offer career-focused programs that provide hands-on, practical knowledge and skills for employment. If your goal is to find work, it is better to choose a college degree, unless your chosen career specifically requires an advanced degree (for example, if you want to become a doctor or a lawyer). Universities often offer a highly theoretical knowledge that is more broad and less practical, such as art and science for example. As surprising as it may sound to an immigrant, there are people in Canada who have university degrees who cannot find jobs while their classmates who attended a college found jobs right away. However, it would be wrong to assume that having a degree from either college or university guarantees you a job. It’s shocking for some immigrants to learn that there is 27% unemployment/underemployment rate. It means that some of new graduates cannot find a job at all while some accept jobs for which they are overqualified.
Another fact that might surprise a new immigrant is that skilled trades are a good career choice in Canada if your goal is to make money. There are more than 150 skilled trades that can be learned through apprenticeship training. Apprentices complete classroom instruction as part of their training and, as an apprentice is considered an employee, they will earn salary while learning the trade. Examples of skilled trades include: plumber, carpenter, construction millwright, drywall finisher and plasterer, floor covering installer, electrician, etc. The people who work in these trades earn $30-40 per hour on average (possibly up to $45-50 per hour eventually). It is important for immigrants to know that, while in some countries this type of work is looked down on, in Canada workers in these professions receive an equal degree of respect as the teachers, doctors and engineers.
If you are interested to learn more about education systems in individual provinces and territories, visit www.cmec.ca (scroll down till you see the map and click on your province). You can also visit www.cicic.ca and click on ‘Education’.