Tips for Prospective International...

Tips for Prospective International Students Moving and Studying in Canada

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By Selina

If you are thinking of studying abroad at the elementary or secondary school level in Canada, or if you are a parent and planning to move to Canada with your child, you have come to the right place. Canada offers world-class education at all levels, including secondary school.

Why attend school in Canada?

Attending school in Canada is a good way to prepare for entering Canadian college or university. It offers a way to assimilate in the culture, language, and education system before enrolling in a post-secondary education in the country. The education quality in Canada is often cited as one of the greatest strengths and reasons for moving to the country. Canada consistently ranks highly when it comes to test scores and educational performance. In a recent assessment by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Canada was ranked 2nd in reading, 10th in math, and 7th in science. At the global level, Canada ranks 2nd of the highest rate of high school completion. A lot of this can be attributed to the quality of teachers. In order to teach in Canada, one must hold a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree, completion of a teaching program at the university level, and one year of practical teacher training. Many also earn Master’s degrees. There are ongoing training and professional development that enable teachers to regularly upgrade their skills.

Who governs the education system in Canada?

Education is governed at the provincial and territorial level in Canada. Each province or territory’s Ministry of Education decides on the school curriculum and programs. A national organization called the Council of Ministers of Education Canada brings all the ministries together to make major policy decisions and initiatives, to ensure consistency in the education system. No matter what province or territory you plan to move to or attend high school in, you can be assured that you (or your child) will receive world-class, high-quality education.

Do international students need custodians when studying in Canada?

Parents or legal guardians must prove that minor children will have the care and support they need during their stay in Canada. Those under the age of 17 must come to Canada with their parent or legal guardian, or have a custodian in Canada. A custodian is defined as “a responsible adult, who is a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident, who will take care of and support the minor child.” A custodian is optional for minors aged 17 years and older. To appoint a custodian, please refer to the information on the Government of Canada website for a Custodianship Declaration Form.

Is a study permit needed for studying in Canada?

Programs that are six months or less do not require a study permit. Because the typical school academic year exceeds six months, you would need to apply for a study permit prior to entering Canada. This usually requires a letter of acceptance from the school, unless you are coming to Canada with a parent or guardian who already has a valid study or work permit.

A study permit is not required for minor children who are refugees or refugee claimants, or have parents who are refugees or refugee claimants.

Those without a valid study permit must have a valid visitor visa or Electronic Travel Authorization. If you need to renew a study permit, be sure to do it at least three months before the expiry date on the current permit. Those with an expired study permit, or without a valid visitor permit, would lose student status and have 90 days to apply to restore it.

What ages would fall into the elementary school system in Canada?

In most provinces and territories in Canada, elementary school is from grades 1 to 8 (approximately ages 6 to 14). Grades 7 and 8 are often referred to as “junior high”. This is then followed by high school from grades 9 to 12 (approximately ages 14 to 18). The exception is in Quebec, where high school is from grades 7 to 12. Students can go on to college, university, or enter a skilled trade apprenticeship program upon completion of high school.

How is a typical day in high school like in Canada?

The school year usually starts in September, just after Labour Day long weekend (which typically falls in the first weekend of September), and ends in June. School hours may vary by jurisdiction, but usually it runs from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday to Friday.

How do I enroll in a Canadian elementary school?

If you plan on enrolling in a public school, contact the local school board first. For private school enrollment, contact the school directly.

Grade assignment is usually by age, but the school may perform an assessment of new students to assign them to the correct grade. Most schools offer an English as a Second Language (ESL) program for newly arrived students who need extra support for learning English.



EduCanada. (2019). High School in Canada. https://www.educanada.ca/programs-programmes/secondary-secondaire.aspx?lang=eng

Government of Canada. (2021). Studying in Canada as a Minor. Immigration and Citizenship. https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/study-canada/study-permit/prepare/minor-children.html

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