Toronto Campus
21 Eddfield Avenue
Toronto, ON, M2N 2M5
(416) 250-0648

Richmond Hill Campus
11 Headdon Gate
Richmond Hill, ON, L4C 9W9
(905) 780-6565

History of education in Canada

The school year in Canada usually runs from the first week of September until the end of June (ten months). It is divided into periods or quarters/semesters. Also there are a few year-round schools and some that have a year that runs from mid-August till the end of May.

The school day in elementary schools is usually from 8.30am to 3 or 3.30pm, with an hour for lunch. There are also usually two 15-minute breaks (recesses) to allow students to eat a lanch between classes and allow teachers to rest. In high schools, hours are usually from 8.30am until 2.30pm. After school activities and sports are scheduled after school classes. Lessons in public schools are held from Mondays to Fridays and there are no lessons on Saturdays or Sundays. For private schools is almost the same situation.

There are various types of pre-schools in Canada, including non-profit co-operative schools, private schools, church-affiliated schools, local community schools and Montessori schools. A co-operative school is usually the least expensive as parents work voluntarily as teachers’ aides alongside professional teachers. Church-affiliated schools are usually attached to religious centres and may include religious education (it isn’t always necessary for children to follow the same religion as the school). Private schools are the most expensive and vary considerably from small home-run set-ups to large custom-built schools.

Nursery school is highly recommended for all children, particularly those whose parents are not fluent in English or French. After a few years in nursery school a child is integrated into the local community and well prepared for elementary school (particularly when English or French isn’t spoken at home). Their parents can also make friends in the community through pre-school contacts.

Children must start theis school classes on 1st September following their fifth birthday. The first years of compulsory schooling in Canada are called elementary or primary school. Elementary school is usually mixed and is usually attended until age 11 (grades 1 to 6), when students go on to a junior high school. In some provinces students attend elementary school until age 13 (up to grade 8) before attending a senior high school.

The elementary school curriculum varies with the organisation and educational aims of private schools and local communities. Elementary schools provide instruction in the fundamental skills of reading, writing and maths, as well as history, geography, crafts, music, science, art, and physical education (phys ed. or gym). French and some ‘foreign’ languages, which used to be taught only at high schools, are now introduced during the last few years of elementary school in some provinces.

Secondary education in Canada is for children aged from 12 to 18 (grades 7 to 12). It generally takes place in a high school, that may be divided into junior and senior high (held in separate buildings or even at separate locations). Junior high is for those aged 12 to 14 (grades 7 to 9) and senior high for ages 15 to 17 (grades 10 to 12). Like elementary education, secondary education is mixed.

Secondary schools may specialise in academic or vocational streams or the arts; all include some kind of ‘streaming’ system that’s designed to prepare students for a vocational or community college or university. Mandatory or ‘core’ curriculum subjects must be studied for a prescribed number of years or terms, as decided by each province. These generally include English (French), maths, general science, health, sport (physical education) and social studies or social sciences (which may include Canadian history and government, geography, world history and social problems). In addition to mandatory subjects, students choose optional subjects (electives) that will benefit them in the future.

Electives usually comprise around half of a student’s work in grades 9 to 12. Around the ninth grade, students receive career guidance counselling as they begin to plan their careers and select subjects that will be useful in their chosen fields. Counselling continues throughout the senior high school years and into college. Larger schools may offer a selection of elective courses aimed at three or more levels: academic, vocational and general. Students planning to go on to college or university elect courses with an emphasis on academic sciences (biology, chemistry, physics), higher mathematics (algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus), advanced English or French literature, composition, social sciences or foreign languages.

School sports are popular in Canada, although most take place outside school hours (extracurricular). Team sports have a high profile at high school and being ‘on the school team’ is more important to many students than being top of the class. Students who excel at sports are often referred to disparagingly as ‘jocks’, implying that they’re too stupid or lazy to succeed at their academic work. However, if a student’s grades don’t reach the required level he’s likely to be barred from taking part in team sports until his grades improve (and he’s constantly monitored). High school sport is central to school activities and the ceremony that goes with college sport is also found at high-school level.

In addition to sports, many other school-sponsored activities take place outside school hours, including science and nature clubs, musical organisations (e.g. band and choir), art and drama groups, and language clubs. Most high schools have a student-run newspaper and a photographic darkroom is also usually available. Colleges and universities place considerable weight on the achievements of students in high school extracurricular activities, as do Canadian employers. High schools are also important social centres and participation in school-organised social events, such as school dances and the first hockey game of the season, is widespread.

High school students who need to make up for lost time after illness (or idleness) can attend special ‘cramming’ courses at learning centres run by private companies. High schools divide their curriculum into ‘advanced’, which prepares students to go to university, or ‘general’, which prepares students to go to a community college or trade school.

High school students take the General Educational Development (GED) Diploma before completing high school, which is the recognised entrance qualification for admission to a Canadian university (mature students aged 25 or over can take GED ‘equivalency exams’ if they haven’t passed the GED).

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