Bloomsbury Education and Childhood Studies Country Pages


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Country overview



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DOI: 10.5040/9781350995963.0011

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    Bloomsbury Publishing
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Bloomsbury Education and Childhood Studies Country
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Country overview

Education in Canada is largely controlled at the provincial and territorial levels, under the auspices of Canada’s ten provinces and three territories, where school administration is overseen by a descending governance structure of local school districts, school boards, and in-school administrative bodies. The federal government also has a hand in the formation of funding within Canada’s education system.

Canada has made international news for the purported strengths of its educational achievements.[1], [2] On international educational achievement tests, like the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)—“a triennial international survey which aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students… in science, mathematics, reading, collaborative problem solving and financial literacy”[3]—Canadian students have most recently finished in the top ten of these rankings.[4], [5] Research on education in Canada, however, indicate that these achievements are not the whole story; notably other sources point to the atrocities of residential schools perpetrated against the indigenous peoples in Canada[6] and their legacy.[7]

Children in Canada typically start school at the age of 5 or 6 years.[8] Education is compulsory for all children up to and “between 16 and 18” years old.[9] Primary, or elementary education, encompasses Kindergarten or Grade 1 (ages 6 to 7) and runs through to Grade 8 (ages 13 to 14). Secondary/high school runs from Grade 9 (ages 14 to 15) to Grade 12 (ages 17 to 18).

One commonly cited statistic suggests that the percentage of adult Canadians who have completed either college or university is at 54 percent,[10] and “In 2017, 60 percent of 25–34 year olds in Canada held a tertiary qualification, the highest share of all OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries after Korea.”[11] Canada has three universities in the top forty globally ranked institutions (dependent upon the source ranking), University of British Columbia, McGill University, and the University of Toronto.[12], [13], [14]

Read more about education and childhood in Canada

Statistical information

GDP (current US$)

School enrollment, primary (% gross)

Life expectancy at birth, total (years)

Population, total

Full country profile

Regional Editor

Rachel Heydon, Professor, Western University, Canada

Rachel Heydon is Professor, Faculty of Education, Western University, and Codirector of the Provincial Centre of Excellence and Secretariat for Early Years and Child Care. Her work focuses on early childhood curriculum, intergenerational learning, and literacy education for well-being across the lifespan. Rachel’s recent projects include inquiries into kindergarten literacy curricula, digital tools in intergenerational arts curricula, and the everyday literacy practices of thriving elders. She is Executive Editor of the Journal of Curriculum Studies and her recent publications include Why Multimodal Literacy Matters (2016) (with Susan O’Neill), Constructing Meaning: Teaching Literacy K-8 (2012) (with Joyce Bainbridge), and Negotiating Spaces for Literacy Learning (2015) (with Mary Hamilton, Kathryn Hibbert, and Roz Stooke).


  • Ann Anderson (University of British Columbia, Canada)

  • Jim Anderson (University of British Columbia, Canada)

  • Rachael Bell (University of New Brunswick, Canada)

  • Kathryne Brattland (Nicola Valley Institute of Technology, Canada)

  • Catherine Burwell (University of Calgary, Canada)

  • Kim Calder Stegemann (Thompson Rivers University, Canada)

  • Karyn Callaghan (Ontario Reggio Association, Canada)

  • Emma Cooper (Western University, Canada)

  • Melanie Cortes (University of New Brunswick, Canada)

  • Wendy A. Crocker (Western University, Canada)

  • José L. da Costa (University of Alberta, Canada)

  • Christopher DeLuca (Queen’s University, Canada)

  • Xiaoxiao Du (Western University, Canada)

  • Sarah Elaine Eaton (University of Calgary, Canada)

  • Xavier Fazio (Brock University, Canada)

  • Mahshid Ghaffartehrani (University of British Columbia, Canada)

  • Shemine Gulamhusein (Ryerson University, Canada)

  • David Cameron Hauseman (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto, Canada)

  • Rachel Heydon (Western University, Canada)

  • Kathryn Hibbert (Western University, Canada)

  • Luigi Iannacci (Trent University, Canada)

  • Susan Ibdah (Western University, Canada)

  • Magdalena Janus (McMaster University, Canada)

  • Daniel H. Jarvis (Nipissing University, Canada)

  • Randa Khattar (Western University, Canada)

  • Anna Kirova (University of Alberta, Canada)

  • Linda Laidlaw (University of Alberta, Canada)

  • Nicole Land (Ryerson University, Canada)

  • Amélie Lemieux (Mount Saint Vincent University, Canada)

  • Zhen Lin (Western University, Canada)

  • Kelly-Ann MacAlpine (Western University, Canada)

  • Kendra MacLaren (University of Prince Edward Island, Canada)

  • Kimberly Maich (Memorial University, Canada)

  • Pamela Malins (Western University, Canada)

  • Lori McKee (Western University, Canada)

  • Marianne McTavish (The University of British Columbia, Canada)

  • Richard E. Mueller (University of Lethbridge, Canada)

  • Mary Ott (Western University, Canada)

  • Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw (Western University, Canada)

  • Michelle Pidgeon (Simon Fraser University, Canada)

  • Katina Pollock (Western University, Canada)

  • Larry Prochner (University of Alberta, Canada)

  • Sharon Rich (Nipissing University, Canada)

  • Brooke Richardson (Brock University, Canada)

  • Susan C. Rodger (Western University, Canada)

  • Jennifer Rowsell (Brock University, Canada)

  • Tara-Lynn Scheffel (Nipissing University, Canada)

  • Theresa Shanahan (York University, Canada)

  • Ayesha Siddiqua (McMaster University, Canada)

  • Steve Sider (Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada)

  • Nan Stevens (Thompson Rivers University, Canada)

  • Rosamund Stooke (Western University, Canada)

  • Annie Tran (Western University, Canada)

  • Louis Volante (Brock University, Canada)

  • Pam Whitty (University of New Brunswick, Canada)

  • Sean Wiebe (University of Prince Edward Island, Canada)

  • Jeffrey Wood (Laurentian University, Canada)

  • Zheng Zhang (Western University, Canada)

[1] S. Coughlan (2017), “How Canada Became an Education Superpower,” https://www.bbc.com/news/business-40708421 (accessed October 18, 2018).

[2] D. McPhillips (2018), “These Are The Top 5 Countries for Education,” https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/best-education?slide=4 (accessed October 18, 2018).

[3] Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2018), “What is Pisa?,” http://www.oecd.org/pisa/aboutpisa/ (accessed October 18, 2018).

[4] A. Jackson and A. Kiersz (2016), “The Latest Ranking of Top Countries in Math, Reading, and Science is Out- and the US Didn’t Crack the Top 10,” https://www.businessinsider.com/pisa-worldwide-ranking-of-math-science-reading-skills-2016-12 (accessed October 18, 2018).

[5] OECD (2018), “PISA 2015 Results in Focus,” http://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisa-2015-results-in-focus.pdf (accessed October 18, 2018).

[6] National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (n.d.), “National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation,” http://nctr.ca/assets/reports/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf (accessed October 19, 2018).

[7] Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015), “Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action,” http://nctr.ca/assets/reports/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf (accessed October 19, 2018).

[8] Government of Canada (2017), “Elementary and Secondary Education,” https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/new-immigrants/new-life-canada/enrol-school/elementary-secondary.html (accessed October 18, 2018).

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] OECD (2018), “Education at a Glance 2018: OECD Indicators: Canada,” https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/education-at-a-glance-2018/canada_eag-2018-40-en (accessed October 18, 2018).

[12] Centre for World University Rankings (CWUR) (2018), “CWUR World University Rankings 2018–2019,” https://cwur.org/2018-19.php (accessed October 18, 2018).

[13] QS (2018), “World University Rankings,” https://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/world-university-rankings/2019 (accessed October 18, 2018).