The Canadian Bureau for International Education says there are three main reasons international students choose Canada:
Not only does Canada have one of the best education systems in the world, with The Master Portal ranking it in 7th place, but Canada is also, not surprisingly, one of the most educated countries. This may in part be due to the efforts the Canadian government puts into education.
During a speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau said, “We need to give people the tools and ability to help them succeed. [...] We need education to enable people to learn, think, and adapt. [...] We need policies that encourage science, innovation and research.”
Education is considered a priority, and public education is well-funded. Canada spends more than the average, and the results show.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development states that the average percentage of adults (between 25 and 64 years old) that completed any sort of tertiary education is 36.9 percent. Canada, at the top of this list, has 56.29 percent. CNBC names some other countries in the Top Ten including Japan, Israel, Korea, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia.
But how does the system work?
Because it’s mostly managed by each province, there may be some variations but here is the general idea for each level.
This is basically elementary school, and runs until grade 8, which is usually up to ages 13 or 14. The academic year starts in late August or September and ends in June, like in the United States. Just Landed’s guide to Canadian Public Schools says that Elementary Education is for the basic skills like reading, writing, mathematics, history, geography, science, art, among others.
Intermediate and Secondary Education
Here’s where there are some variations depending on schools and provinces.
Most provinces consider grade 7 to 9 as junior high, or intermediate education, while others take grade 6 through 8 as “middle school.” Grades 9 to 12 are generally just known as high school, or secondary education.
The most notable differences are with Quebec. Quebec school only goes up to grade 11, and students only attend high school until around age 16. However, then they would transfer to a general or vocational college. On the other hand, Ontario also has a grade 12+
Again from Just Landed’s guide, there may be a little more specialisation in secondary education, academic and vocational. Larger schools would also have more electives especially after grade 9, around the same time at which students would start to receive career guidance counseling.
For both of the above, parents can choose to place their kids in free public schools, paid private schools, educate them at home, and in most areas choose whether they want the children to learn in English or French.
Since education is only mandatory up to age 16 (or 18 in some provinces), this is where the choices become both more specific and more diverse. This is where we have universities, colleges, and institutes that can grant degrees, diplomas, certificates and other qualifications.
The Government of Canada’s website has a very detailed page on post-secondary educational options, but to summarize, universities are where one would get a bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degree. Colleges and institutes have programs that run from one to three years in areas such as business, health, agriculture, computer and mechanical technologies, etc. Some recognized colleges offer bachelor’s degrees and some even master’s as well.
But, while this is the more basic structure of it, there are more details that make the Canadian education system interesting.
According to Bright Hub Education, “it starts with teachers.” In itself, teaching is a competitive area, so a lot of teachers decide to start with ESL in different countries (teaching english as a second language) before returning to teach in Canada. The pay is also quite good, as teachers “earn 85 percent of the GDP per capita.”
Moreover, Canada tries to help students by going further than just inside the classroom. Bright Education Hub says a clear example is Canada’s Student Success Strategy, which includes programs, learning opportunities, and going as far as assigning a special teacher to assist those at risk of dropping out.
BBC even talks about migrant students as one of the reasons for Canada’s outstanding reputation in terms of education. Canada sees international students as people who can be included in the conversation more than an “other,” or at least that’s how most perceive this. It claims that “despite the different policies in individual provinces, there is a common commitment to an equal chance in school.” (Coughlan)
Internationally, Canada is recognized as sort of an educational superpower, and within Canada, they constantly try to maintain this stance. In the way it is prioritized, the political efforts, and even the ways in which the system varies, students will be able to find what works best for their personal and academic goals.
Wendy is an international student from Ecuador who just graduated from Seattle University with a double major in Creative Writing and Theatre. She’s excited to share some of the stories of things she’s learned in her time in the U.S.
For students interested in studying abroad, Canada is a safe, open and tolerant multicultural society with a unique education system that offers a rich variety of academic programs.
Canada’s Education System
A country with a highly diverse cultural blend (more than 200 ethnic origins and 200 first languages within its borders), Canada does not have a national system of education or federal department. The federal government has given territorial governments the responsibility to run their own education systems, which cooperate with the 13 Canadian provinces (Alberta, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, Quebec, Yukon and Saskatchewan) to delivery postsecondary programs.
The Federal Government
Easy Residency and Promising Employment
International students are regarded as great candidates for becoming permanent residents because of their language skills, education credentials and work experience in Canada. Policy changes have helped to increase the allowable number of hours of paid work for international students and the length of post-graduation work permits. These changes have also helped develop specific immigration programs in provinces directed at international students.
A CBIE research report found that 52% of prospective international students plan to apply for permanent residency because Canada has better job opportunities than their home country, and 59% of prospective international students plan to apply for permanent residency because Canada has a better standard of living than their home country.
With a study permit, students can work on campus if the institution they are attending is publicly funded and offers degree programs. Students can also work as a graduate, research or teaching assistant for an off-campus employer that has a formal affiliation with the institution, such as a teaching hospital or research institute.
Full-time students may also be eligible to work off-campus for any employer. These permits usually allow up to 20 hours per week during the term, and full-time during holidays. As of February 14, 2019, the Canadian federal government published changes to the Post-Graduation Work Permit program, making employment in Canada after graduation much easier for international students. A Post-Graduation Work Permit allows an international graduate to work anywhere in Canada at any job for up to three years after finishing a degree or diploma at a Canadian university or public college. The application time is now six months and students can now apply for the permit up to 180 days after finishing their degree or diploma. However, to qualify, students must attend a public post-secondary institution.
Canada is Safe
The Bureau of Diplomatic Security at the U.S. Department of State reports that the overall violent crime rate is lower in Canada than the U.S. Despite the increase in tourism in 2017, the police reported that the overall city crime rate in Montreal, Canada decreased and that homicide rates are the lowest in the past 45 years. The majority of crimes occurring in Vancouver are non-violent in nature. Street crime targeting individuals for robberies is rare. The crime level in Halifax has a minimal impact on the work and life of the community. A 2017 Calgary Police Commission Report said 95% of citizens agreed Calgary is a safe place to live.
The Institute for Economics & Peace ranked Canada as the eighth most peaceful country in the world in 2016 and 2017 and sixth in 2018. The first country to officially adopt multiculturalism as a policy, Canada follows a set of principles outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
A Quality, Affordable Education Worth Leaving Home for
Canada’s education systems are rated among the best in the world and are responsive to the needs of diverse populations and age groups. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate degree programs offered in Canadian universities, as well as professional degree programs and certificates.
In the Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings list, three Canadian universities are ranked in the top 50, and the highest -- the University of Toronto -- ranks at 22nd.
While international students pay more than Canadian citizens to go to school because they are out of state, it is still less than they would pay in other countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States or Australia. Some universities in Canada charge low tuition fees for international students and fees are usually between $5,000 to $10,000 per year for undergraduate, master and doctorate degree programs.
According to a recent study by the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE), in 2017 there were 494,525 international students in Canada at all levels of study -- a 17% increase over 2016, and a 34% increase between 2014 and 2017. Over 1.5 million new jobs were created for university graduates between 2008 and 2017– almost three times those created for graduates of all other types of postsecondary education combined. More than half of undergraduates benefit from co-ops, internships and service learning as part of their university education, and 78% of universities promote intercultural engagement through events, activities, and training.
At the University of Alberta, graduates have the highest employment rate in Canada and one of best in the world, according to university rankings.
Canadian universities are putting extra effort into internationalizing their campuses and seek to offer students opportunities to have unforgettable experiences that will help enhance their career and interpersonal skills.
For example, McGill University’s Buddy program has helped thousands of international students settle into McGill and Montreal by pairing international students with current students who offer linguistic support, cultural guidance, and more.
Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia has a diverse community of students from over 110 countries, and offers an International Learning Champion Award to recognize Dalhousie faculty and staff members who have made a significant impact in promoting and supporting international learning experiences for Dalhousie students.
Erik Moshe is a freelance writer based in Virginia.