When moving to a new country as a family, the schooling for your children is as important as finding employment and deciding where to settle. Fortunately, Canada is internationally ranked as a leader in education and there are plenty of educational opportunities for families. For newcomers to Quebec, here is what you need to know about navigating the school system and enrolling your child.
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See The newcomer guide to schooling in Canada for information on an overview of the types of school education in Canada, as well as how to enroll your child.
Types of schools in Quebec
In Quebec, children aged six to 16-years-old must attend school. Schooling consists of three levels elementary (also known as primary), secondary school and college. Here’s a breakdown the types of schools in Quebec:
1. Public schools in Quebec
The public school system in Quebec provides instruction primarily in French language, with limited English language instruction. There are 64 public Francophone school boards across the province and public schools are free to attend.
2. English language schools in Quebec
There are nine English language school boards in Quebec and education is available for students from preschool to college. In order to enroll your child into an English language school, your child must meet one of the following criteria:
- They did most of their elementary or secondary studies in English in Canada
- Their brother or sister did most of their elementary studies in English in Canada
- Their parent did most of their schooling in English in Canada
- Their parent attended school in Quebec after August 26, 1977 and could have been declared eligible for instruction in English at that time
Children who are permanent residents of Quebec and who qualify for a certificate of eligibility may also apply. To apply for an English language school, parents have a child declared eligible to learn in English, parents will need to contact their local English language school board. Some English schools also include a French immersion program.
3. Private schools in Quebec
While most students go to a publicly-funded school, a percentage of students in Quebec also attend private school. Part of the reason for this is because the Quebec government gives a subsidy for each child to attend any private school which meets the province’s standards. Even if you are eligible for the government subsidy, you will still have to pay around 30 per cent of the total costs for your child to attend. In Quebec, private school education costs range greatly. You can expect to pay anywhere from $5,000 to $69,000 CAD per year (not taking into account any government subsidy). Parents generally choose a private school education for their child based on the school’s approach to learning, to meet their child’s educational needs, or for religious beliefs.
A small number of parents in Quebec opt out of both public and private schools and educate them at home, which is known as homeschooling. Parents who opt to homeschool their child are required to comply with government regulations in relation to curriculum or learning projects taught and an annual evaluation. Parents are also required to send a written notice to the Minister and their school board on or before July 1 of each year.
Early childhood education in Quebec
In Quebec, children begin schooling at the age of five. Before then, early childhood education (ECE) is available. This age-appropriate, play-based learning is usually provided to children aged between three and five in a preschool setting.
Quebec offers a free Kindergarten program (also known as their Preschool Education Program) for four-year-olds that’s designed to foster the development of children and prepare them for entering preschool at the age of five. If your child is at least four on September 30 of the school year, parents can register for the program by contacting their local school board.
In addition, private preschool programs are also available in the province for children aged two and up. Some early childhood centres in Quebec operate as a non-profit and provide spaces for children at a reduced rate of around $8.35 CAD per day. Alternatively, parents can register their child with a private preschool and should expect to pay around $35-$56 CAD per day.
Types of preschool programs in Quebec
When it comes to choosing a preschool program, look for one with Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECEs), and ask to drop in for a visit. Here are some types of preschools available:
- Local community or non-profit co-operative schools: These are usually the least expensive as parents work voluntarily as teachers’ aides alongside professional teachers.
- Religious schools: Usually attached to religious institutions and may include religious education (it isn’t essential for children to follow the same religion as the school).
- Private schools: These are most expensive and vary considerably from small home-run set-ups to large custom-built schools.
- Montessori schools: Montessori is more of a philosophy of life than a teaching method.
Early education might be a good option for families who don’t have English or French as their first language as it will help the child learn these languages prior to starting kindergarten or elementary school.
Grade structure and levels of education in Quebec
Public education in Quebec is divided into three levels: elementary school, secondary (high school), and college.
In Quebec, elementary school (école primaire) begins with Kindergarten (maternelle) at the age of five and goes through to Grade 6. Kindergarten is not mandatory for children, however, parents can enroll their child in kindergarten if they turn five by September 30 that year. Generally, students graduate grade school at the age of 11.
Secondary school (école secondaire) runs from Grade 7 to 11. In Quebec, there is no Grade 12. Generally, students begin at the age of 11-12 and finish Grade 11 at the age of 16. Once they have completed Grade 11, students will receive their Diploma of Secondary Studies (Diplôme d’études secondaires).
Instead of Grade 12, students in Quebec typically go on to college (which is also known as CEGEP). College education is designed to bridge the gap between completing secondary school in Grade 11 and attending university. Students can attend a college that specializes in pre-university education or a technical college. Pre-university courses run for two years, while technical or vocational courses run for three years. Publicly funded colleges typically combine pre-university and vocational programs in the one school, while privately run colleges may offer completely separate programs. At the end of college, students earn a Diplôme d’études collégiales.
After completing college, students can apply to go to university, undertake vocational training, or work.
How to enroll your kids into school in Quebec
In Quebec, children are eligible to begin kindergarten (also known as preschool) if they turn five by September 30 that year. Quebec’s different district school boards are responsible for creating the school boundaries and generally students can only attend a school in the area where they live. However, it’s possible for parents to make a cross-boundary request.
Information required to register your child for school:
- Child’s original long-form birth certificate, showing both parents’ names
- Proof of Canadian citizenship or residency
- Proof of residency in Quebec, such as a rental agreement, driver’s licence or utility bill
- Most recent report card
Steps to enroll your child in a school in Quebec:
- Verify your child’s home school by visiting the local school board.
- Follow the directions to register your child online.
- Fill in an application form which typically contains information about your child, home address, medical information, parent or guardian information, and emergency contacts.
- Provide proof of your child’s ID and proof of residency and copy of previous report cards.
- If you wish to enrol your child in an English school in Quebec, ensure they meet the requirements for a Certificate of Eligibility first.
- For high school, your child will meet with a guidance counsellor to discuss their previous schooling and career goals. They will also help your child choose school courses.
Provide new teachers with previous report cards to help them understand what your child has already learned.
If you need help, there are newcomer agencies in your area that can help you register your child for school or help you find an interpreter.
While public education in Quebec is free, there will still be some school-related expenses you should budget for. They include:
Before and after school programs
School boards in Quebec are required to provide before and after school care for school-aged children from four to 12 years old. In Quebec, subsidized child care is available at a reduced rate of $8.50 CAD, making it more affordable for all families. The English Montreal School Board offers a Before and After School Enriched (B.A.S.E.) program, that is subsidized by the Quebec government. It provides care for preschool and elementary school students at a rate of $8.50 CAD per day.
Children are usually required to bring basic stationary school supplies when they start a new grade or school year. Typically, schools will provide a list of required items (e.g. pencils, pencil crayons, sharpener, ruler, calculator, glue stick). You may also have to purchase a lunchbox, water bottle, backpack, and gym shoes for your child. The Quebec provincial government does provide an annual financial supplement of $105 CAD per child aged four to 16 for families who qualify for Family Allowance payments.
Textbooks are provided by the school for free and are returned at the end of the semester or school year. Some schools may also provide assistive technology to students who require additional support (e.g. access to a Chromebook).
Unlike other provinces in Canada, in Quebec school uniforms are common for the majority of schools. In the English school system, almost every elementary and high school have a mandatory uniform. Typically, private schools also require a uniform. Parents need to factor in the cost of a school uniform and the school usually provides information on where you can purchase a uniform for your child.
In Quebec, school bus transportation is provided free of charge to kindergarten students who live at least 0.08 kilometres away, elementary students who live at least 1.6 kilometres away and high school students who live at least 2 kilometres away. Older students who are not eligible for bussing may be able to catch public transit to and from school, as required. In this case, you would need to factor the cost of public transit into your budget.
Field trips are often organized by schools for students to visit places that are relevant to their education. They include places such as museums, cultural institutions, and outdoor activities. There is usually a cost involved in participating. Older children may also have the opportunity to participate in overnight camps or trips away with the school and there will be a cost involved to cover transportation and accommodation. The school may be able to provide financial support for parents who require it.
Fundraising is common and typical fundraising activities include pizza lunches, book fairs, bake sales, or holiday gift sales. The amount parents could expect to spend over a school year on fundraising activities varies, depending on your participating in events. The money raised is usually used to fund school trips, purchase new technology or add learning resources.
It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with Quebec’s education system before settling in the province. That way you’ll be aware of your school choices, have the right paperwork ready and set your child on a path to success!