K-12 Education System in Canada

K-12, a term used in education in Canada, is a short form for the school grades prior to college. These grades are Kindergarten (K) and the 1st through the 12th grade (1-12).

Canada comprises ten provinces and three territories. Education in Canada is a province-run system of public education provided, funded and administered by federal, provincial, and local governments. Education is compulsory up to the age of 16 years in Canada, except for Ontario and New Brunswick, where compulsory age is 18. Most children attend elementary school (or primary school) and then high school (or secondary school). 
  • Elementary Schools: Elementary school starts with Kindergarten at age four or five. At age six, children attend Grade 1 and continue through to Grade 6 or 8 before they enter high school.
  • Secondary Schools: Secondary schools consist of middle school and high schools. Some provinces have middle schools for children in grades seven and eight. Middle school is a transition for children aged 12 and 13 between elementary school and high school. High school, or secondary school, is for children in Grades 8 or 9 to Grade 12. 

Classification of Schools

  • Based on districts: Provinces are divided into school districts, and school districts have school boards which implement policy and course of study set by the province.
  • Based on Funding: There are two types of schools: Public and Private Schools. Public schools are free and funded by the government, whereas for private schools, students have to ante up.
  • Based on Religious Affiliations: Schools can be secular, i.e. no religious affiliations, Catholic or Christian.

Levels in Education and  Length of Study

As the education system in Canada is administered by the varying provincial governments in Canada, the way the educational stages are grouped and named may differ for each region, or even between districts and individual schools.


Also, called as a Nursery School is for the age-group of 5 or below. It has:
  • Junior Kindergarten (Only in Ontario): for the ages 3-5
  • Kindergarten: for the ages 5-6.

Elementary Schools

Elementary Schools includes ages 6-12 and grades 1 to 6.
The elementary school curriculum focuses on the basic subjects of language, math, social studies, science, health and physical education, and the introductory arts; some jurisdictions include second-language learning also.

Secondary Schools

Secondary Schools are also, called as ‘High School’, includes grade 9 through 12. In Quebec, high school covers grades 7 through 11. It consists of Junior high school and high school.

In the beginning years, students take mostly compulsory courses, with some options. These specialized courses prepare students for the job market or to meet the differing entrance requirements of postsecondary institutions. Secondary school diplomas are granted to students who complete the required number of compulsory and optional courses. In most cases, vocational and academic course of studies are offered within the same secondary schools; while technical and vocational programs are offered in separate, dedicated vocational training centers.

Junior High School

It is for the students of the age group 12-15 and covers the grades 7 through 9.
  • Grade 7: for the ages 12-13
  • Grade 8: for the ages 13-14
  • Grade 9: for the ages 14-15

 High School

High School covers the Grades 10 to 12 and for the students whose age is 15 and above. Classes offered in High School, or Secondary school includes English or Advanced English Mathematics, Advanced Mathematics Chemistry, Physics, Biology French. Drama, Art, and Digital Art Design. 

Language of Instruction

Since Canada is a bilingual country, English-language and French-language schools are available throughout the country.  

Academic Year

The school year normally begins from September and finishes to the end of June. 
  • Time Span - 13 years in total (Preschool, Kindergarten/Preparatory, primary school, secondary school (or high school) and senior secondary school (or college) )
  • Terms – 2 for high schools, trimester in elementary and middle schools, i.e. Kindergarten to grade 8.
  • Starts – For High Schools, starts from September to mid-January and the second running from early February until the Thursday before the last Friday in June. For Elementary and middle schools: the first running from September to January, the second from January to March or April, and the third from March or April until June.
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