Does Canada Have a Good Education System?

The majority of the best schools in the world are found in progressive countries. However, there is a difference between a country with good schools and one with a good education system. In this article, we will explore why Canada has a good education system and how it compares with its powerful neighbor, the United States.

Table of Contents

How Is the Education System in Canada?

Does Canada have a good education system? Some countries have great schools like Harvard University in the USA, Oxford University in the UK and Japan’s University of Tokyo. However, those schools are very hard to enter. Canada is different since the focus is the whole education system itself. Not only is the quality of academics focused, but also the affordability to all.

Access to Education

Free Public Education

Canada’s public education is well-funded and stable. Although public schools are managed differently from province to province, the federal government still oversees all of them. Thus, the quality of all public schools remains high and consistent.
These schools are also heavily subsidized, from kindergarten all the way to the post-secondary level. In fact, as long as you are a resident of Canada, education is free until the end of secondary school. For international students, payment is still required though.

Affordable Post-Secondary Education

The tuition fees of post-secondary schools depend on the nature of the program taken. Permanent residents may need to pay a yearly tuition between $2,500 CAD and $11,400 CAD, depending on the school they attend and the program they enroll in. Although there’s hardly a post-secondary school that offers free tuition, there are many opportunities that make schooling in Canada affordable.

Quality of Education

High Literacy Rates

Almost 90 percent of the residents have managed to obtain a secondary level of education. The measure for the literacy rate may be difficult to get in actuality, but the last figure reported for Canada was also around 90 percent. There are reports also indicating that Canada’s literacy rate is at least 10% higher than that of the US.

Inclusion of Critical Thinking in Curriculums

Critical thinking is vital to the improvement of one’s education. It encompasses analysis and problem-solving skills. The great thing about Canada’s education is that it is constantly evolving. Most curriculums include critical thinking in their courses and are also being reinforced by teaching methodologies.

Inclusiveness and Diversity

Inclusive Education Policies

Article 24 of the CRPD is supporting the right to inclusive education in Canada. This also prohibits any form of discrimination against disabled children. Furthermore, policies are being set up to ensure that there are no educational barriers, not only within the classroom, but throughout the educating community.

Multicultural Environment

Throughout the years, there have been an increasing number of immigrants living in Canada. With that, Canadian schools will have many students coming from diverse cultures and ethnicities. Though the challenge of addressing multiculturalism is persistent, the policies and support from the government remain consistent.

Performance of Canada's Education System

How is the education system in Canada compared to other progressive countries? One of the determinants for that is the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) score. The scoring measure is used in OECD countries like Canada to evaluate 15-year-olds or Grade 10 students on their basic knowledge and academic skills.

PISA Scores and International Rankings

PISA Results for Canada

In the 2018 PISA results, Canada’s 15-year-olds had a score of 520 points in reading literacy. In mathematics, they scored 512 points and 518 points in science. In terms of “academic resiliency”, or the ability to perform well despite the lack of resources, 13.9% of Canadian students fall into that category. It is worth noting that the PISA scores for immigrant children three years after moving to Canada are comparable to the scores of their non-immigrant peers (this is rare for immigrant children in most countries around the world).

Comparison with Other Countries

The PISA results of Canada in terms of reading literacy, mathematics, and science are far above the average scores of OECD countries. The average score for reading literacy is 487 points and 489 points for both mathematics and science.

Graduation Rates and Post-Secondary Enrollment

Graduation Rates in Canada

Despite the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s graduation rates have increased. For the 2019-2020 school year, the number of on-time graduations rose to 84%. In comparison, the graduation rate during the 2018-2019 school year was 81%. 

Post-Secondary Enrollment Rates

Although the graduation rates rose amidst the effects of the pandemic, the enrollment rates on the other hand had decreased. For the post-secondary levels, there was a drop of 0.6% in the school year 2020-2021. This number included both the resident and the international students. It is expected that the enrollment rate for post-secondary education will increase after the pandemic.

Education Expenditures and Funding

Public Spending on Education

In the academic year 2020-2021, the total expenditures for public and private schools in elementary and secondary levels increased by 6.1% from the previous year. That figure is about $85.6 billion. The public education sector received the majority of that amount, which is around 95.3% of the total or $81.5 billion. 

Private Spending on Education

The private education sector only received less than 5% of the total expenditures in the academic year 2020-2021. Since the costs for private education can range between $15,000 CAD to $30,000 CAD annually and $63,000 CAD to $83,000 CAD per year for boarding schools, there is less reliance on government funding. 

Reform Efforts in Canada's Education System

Although Canada has one of the best education systems in the world, there are still shortcomings and challenges that the sector is facing. Reform efforts are made in order to overcome them and improve the system further. 

Policies and Initiatives

Strategies for Reducing Education Gaps

One of the purposes of reforms is to reduce the education gaps. Although Canada’s education system is proud to be diverse or multicultural, there are still other aspects like socio-economic status that need improvement. Ontario is leading the way on how to achieve success both in educational excellence and equity. Their strategies serve as inspiration for other provinces.

Increased Funding for Education

The funding for higher education as of the academic year 2020-2021 is up to $15.9 billion CAD already, which is a 0.5%-increase compared to the previous year. This trend will likely continue in the succeeding years seeing that the federal government is committed to improving the country’s research and development.

Future Directions and Recommendations

Preparing Students for the Future

To prepare students for the future, the education system consistently evolves in accordance with the needs of society. Ontario, one of Canada’s leading provinces in terms of education, plans to focus more on empowering students to take an active path toward work and community. Furthermore, financial management is also prioritized in higher education.

Addressing Teacher Shortages

The shortage of teachers at all levels might be a persistent thorn in Canada’s education system.
After the intense lockdowns during the height of the pandemic, that problem seems to have worsened. Currently, as the world economy shifts back into high gear, one solution that the education sector saw is to provide competitive salary packages and incentives. This is good news if you are an educator who wants to live and work in Canada, because there is a high demand for teachers at all levels and employers are offering more money to attract them.

Comparison with Other Education Systems

Canada’s PISA results in 2018 are proof that compared to the rest of the world, the education system of Canada is among the best. Furthermore, several Canadian universities are listed among the world’s top 100 best universities year after year, such as the University of Toronto, University of British Columbia and McGill University, among others.

Canada’s Education System vs USA

Differences in Education Systems

The main difference between the education systems of Canada and the USA is the level of competition. Canada has less competition among the students while for Americans, standardized tests (such as the SAT) are relied upon heavily to determine one’s future.
Moreover, Americans value extracurricular activities more, such as inter-collegiate sports. Another notable difference between the two countries is their grading systems.

PISA Results Comparison

In the 2018 PISA results, Canada’s scores were 520, 512, and 518 points for reading literacy, mathematics, and science, respectively. Meanwhile, the US scored 505, 478, and 502 points correspondingly. This means that Canada outscored the US in all categories. Additionally, 10% of American students are academically resilient compared to Canada’s 13.9%.

Comparison with Other Developed Countries

Comparison with Other High-Performing Education Systems

According to US News & World Report in 2022, Canada’s education system ranked 4th best in the world. It is important to note that Canada has been consistently in the top 5 since 2016. One of the main reasons for the success is the federal government’s prioritization of education, in which 5% of the GDP is being spent on it.

Identifying Best Practices for Education Reform

To further strengthen the education reforms, one of the best practices considered is the learning recovery action plan. It was introduced during the height of the pandemic in order to quell learning disruptions and other significant challenges. Moreover, modernization in education is also being fueled, starting with expanding broadband Internet access.

Conclusion of Canada's Education system

Canada has one of the best education systems in the world and in many aspects, even better than that of the US. The academic competition is manageable and the financial demands are minimal. If you are planning to study in Canada’s education system, being a permanent resident will be a great advantage. There are several Canadian immigration programs which offer permanent residency to immigrants and each one has its own requirements and procedures. Our Canadian Immigration Visa Experts works with authorized immigration consultants who can evaluate your best option for Immigration To Canada and guide you through the process if you qualify.



Discover Frequently Asked Questions from Our Support

Students prefer Canada since it has one of the best education systems in the world. Education there is manageable from the course load to the fees, plus Canadians generally make newcomers feel welcomed.

In 2021, a survey of 17,000 people around the world published by US News & World Report ranked Canada the #4 best country for education. For the past several years, Canada has been listed consistently among the top 10 best countries for education.

Compared to other countries, Canada has an education system that offers great quality at an affordable level. Canada’s education system is also unique from most countries in that the children of immigrants perform as well as their Canadian-born peers on the PISA tests three years after moving to Canada.

Both Canada and the United States offer students a high-quality education. Based on the results of a survey of 17,000 people around the world, Canada was ranked as the #4 best country for education in 2022 after the US, the UK and Germany. Students generally receive a high-quality public education regardless of the province or territory where they live in Canada. In the United States, students who live in wealthier school districts tend to receive a better public education than students who live in less affluent school districts. Based on the 2018 PISA rankings, Canada ranked ahead of the US in all categories. In regards to higher education, students can receive a high-quality post-secondary education in Canada and the United States. Every year, several universities in Canada and the United States are listed among the world’s top 100 best institutions of higher education. International students who study in Canada often remark that they feel welcomed by Canadians. There are also opportunities for international students to work in Canada during their studies as well as after they graduate.


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