Education in Canada: Life in Canadian schools

Learn about life in Canadian schools

Some private schools accept only boys and others accept only girls.

In most Canadian schools, boys and girls learn together in the same classroom. Students are taught by teachers, who often have a university education.

Each province and territory has defined a set of skills and classes that students must learn in each grade. This is called a curriculum.

Throughout the school year, students get a report card that shows their progress. Your child must show that they’ve learned the curriculum to go to the next grade. The province or territory sets the passing grade.

Each school will also provide the textbooks that students need. Parents or guardians usually provide other school supplies, like pencils, paper and notebooks.

Many schools have a dress code or require that students wear a uniform.

Video: Education in Canada: an overview of the elementary and secondary school system

Learn about the elementary and secondary education system in Canada, including how the system works and the roles of parents and provincial governments.

Getting to and from school

There are many ways children can travel to and from school, including

  • getting dropped off by their parents
  • walking there on their own, if they’re close by
  • taking public transportation
  • taking the local school bus

Ask your local school for more information on their school bus schedules and public transportation options.

Tell your school about absences

Once a student is registered, schools expect them to attend their classes every day. If your child is sick or can’t attend for another reason, tell the school.

Get help for children with special needs

Many schools have programs for students with special needs. These programs can help with many different kinds of challenges that may be

  • physical
  • cognitive
  • psychological
  • emotional
  • behavioural
  • linguistic

School closures

Schools sometimes close for 1 or more days in the winter because of snowstorms or severe weather. If this happens, you will hear about the closing

  • from the school
  • on the radio
  • on television

Understand bullying

Bullying is the “wilful, repeated aggressive behaviour with negative intent used by a child to maintain power over another child.” Bullying is not tolerated. If your child is a victim of bullying, talk to their teacher or principal.

Learn more about bullying and prevention programs

Other school events and activities

There are lots of activities, events and community initiatives going on at schools.

Extracurricular activities

Spirit days

Many schools also designate certain days each year to raise awareness of issues impacting society, or community issues. Teachers and students are encouraged to participate.

Orange Shirt Day is a good example of a spirit day. Each year on September 30, many schools encourage students to wear orange shirts to raise awareness of Canada’s history with residential schools. The campaign draws attention to the impact these schools had on Indigenous children and how they continue to affect Indigenous communities.

Many schools host activities outside of normal school hours, called extracurricular activities. These are scheduled before and after school, or during a lunch break. Some examples include

  • sports
  • arts
  • hobby clubs

Every school offers different activities to help students

  • make friends
  • get used to the Canadian school system
  • develop interests in subjects outside school

Field trips

Schools organize trips outside the school for students to visit places that are relevant to their education. These are called field trips. Field trips can be to places such as

  • museums
  • workplaces
  • cultural institutions (for example, The Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, or The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Heritage Centre in Regina)
  • city neighbourhoods

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