Canada is internationally recognized for having one of the best education systems in the world. The Canadian government sets the educational standards for the whole country and then the thirteen provinces and territories are responsible for implementing them in their legislations.

We have included a brief introduction to the Canadian education system for any readers unfamiliar with it before delving into the statistics. In this article, you will find statistics on the number of schools and students in Canada, funding, attendance, and tuition fees among other key information.

Education System Statistics for Canadians

  • In 2020, Canada had 14,600 public schools and 436 post-secondary educational facilities.
  • The public and private education expenditure was $112.8 billion in 2018-19.
  • Over 45% of post-secondary education funding comes from the government.
  • The number of students in primary and secondary education has decreased to 4.9 million in 2021 from 5.1 million in 1999.
  • Over 90% of Canadian elementary and secondary students attend public schools.
  • In 2021, there were 2.17 million students in post-secondary education in Canada.
  • The average cost of undergraduate programs was $6,580 in 2021.
  • The average salary for teachers in Canada is $93,700.
  • 94% of Canadians had a high school diploma or higher in 2021.
  • Canada was ranked fifth in the world for its education system.

Education System in Canada

School in Canada is mandatory from the age of five or six depending on the province/territory. However, the majority of Canadian children attend preschool before starting at grade one. Pre-school is mandatory in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Education is mandatory until the age of sixteen and finishes with grade eleven or twelve, again depending on the system in the province/territory. Students then have the choice to attend higher education at a university or a college.

Educational Stages

The primary stage in Canada starts with grade one when children are generally six or seven years old depending on their date of birth. The last grade in elementary school is grade six after which students move to secondary education.

There are two levels of secondary education in Canada which are junior high school and high school. Junior high school covers the first two years of secondary education, which are grades seven and eight. High school is the final part of students’ secondary education in Canada and covers the final four years of mandatory education.

Students will be sixteen to eighteen years old at the end of the mandatory education, depending on their personal circumstances and the province/territory they are in. By law, students have to stay in school until they are sixteen years old regardless of the grade they are in. However, in Ontario and New Brunswick, the law states students need to stay in school until they turn eighteen or have earned their high school diploma.

Post-secondary education in Canada covers a range of colleges and universities. While some students will go to university, others will attend college before entering the workforce or to prepare themselves for university. University courses start with bachelor’s degree courses and advance to master’s degrees and finally to PhDs.

Cost of Education in Canada

Even though the education systems have slight differences across the Canadian provinces and territories, they all offer free education until the final grade of high school. While colleges and universities are not free, there are many subsidies to ensure students from all backgrounds have the opportunity for post-secondary education. You will find further information on fees a little later in the article.

Number of Educational Facilities in Canada

In 2020, Canada had around 14,600 public schools, which included 10,100 elementary schools, 2,600 secondary schools, and 2,100 mixed elementary and secondary schools, providing education to approximately 4.91 million children and teenagers. The average number of students per school was 390. However, the number of students varies a lot depending on the area the school serves.

The approximately 2.17 million post-secondary students in Canada can choose from 213 public colleges and institutes and 223 public and private universities. In addition, there are around 2,000 private and independent schools in Canada from kindergarten to high school.

Expenditure of the Canadian Education System

According to the Council of Ministers of Education Canada, in the 2018-19 academic year, the public and private education expenditure was $112.8 billion, which was spent across all levels of the education system. This was a slight decrease compared to the $119.222 billion expenditure during the 2017-18 academic year.

Revenue for Post-Secondary Institutions

The largest revenue source, at 45.8%, for post-secondary institutions in Canada is government funding. 29.4% of the revenue comes from student fees and the remainder from bequests, nongovernmental grants, donations, sales of products and services, and investments. In total, the revenue for post-secondary institutions was $41.5 billion in the 2018-19 academic year.


While attending preschool is not compulsory in most Canadian provinces and territories, approximately 97% of Canadian children attend preschool. In the academic year 2020-21, there were 4.91 million public primary and elementary school pupils in Canada.

There has been a decline in student numbers since 1999 when 5.13 million pupils attended public education in Canada. The lowest numbers are from 2011-2014 when around 4.72 million pupils attended public elementary and secondary education. Around 98% of pupils who attend primary education will move on to secondary level.

The graduation rate from secondary school was 81% in the 2017-18 academic year. The percentage was higher for girls at 84% compared to boys at 77%.

Most Canadian Elementary and Secondary Students Are in Public Schools

The vast majority of Canadian students are attending public schools. In 2020-21, 91.1% of Canadian elementary and secondary education students were at public schools. 7.5% attend private and independent schools. The percentage of home-schooled primary and elementary students is just 1.5%. However, this figure grew by 106.3% in 2020-21 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Post-Secondary Attendance

According to Statista, the number of students in post-secondary education in Canada has seen steady year-on-year increases. In 2000, there were 1.34 million students in post-secondary education, and in 2021 that number had risen to 2.17 million.

In 2019, there were approximately 1,090,000 full-time students attending universities and 266,000 part-time students. At the end of the 2017-18 academic year, universities in Canada awarded around 197,830 bachelor’s degrees, 65,706 awards were master’s degrees and 7,923 doctoral degrees.

In 2018-19, there were more than 795,000 students enrolled in Canadian colleges and institutions, which was a record-breaking number. In the previous academic year, more than 246,000 students completed their college or institution studies. While the number of students in postsecondary educational facilities has increased, the number of apprenticeships has decreased. There were 455,000 apprenticeship registrations in 2015 compared to 400,000 in 2019. The largest group of apprentices are electricians with more than 68,000 registrations.

University Fees in Canada

The average cost of undergraduate programs in Canada was $6,580 in 2020-21 for Canadian students. International students had to pay more with the annual fees averaging $32,000. Post-secondary students in Canada can receive grants and education tax credits and take out student loans to support their education.

Cost of Private Schools in Canada

While primary and secondary education is free in Canada, some Canadian parents choose to enter their child/ren into a private school. The cost of yearly fees for private schools ranges from around $4,000 to $26,000, depending on the age of the child, location, and how prestigious the school is.

Education and Salaries

On average, Canadians who have an undergraduate degree compared to a college-level diploma are on higher incomes five years after graduation. The median income was $49,000 five years after graduating college with a diploma compared to $64,000 for undergraduate degree graduates five years after graduation.


There were 437,691 educators across Canadian elementary and secondary schools in 2020-21. This was a 1.6% increase from the previous academic year. This increase was driven by the number of educators in public schools going up by approximately 1.7%, while the number of educators in private schools was down by about 0.5%. In 2020, there were more than 47,000 full-time employees in Canadian universities.

Average Salaries in Education

According to Salary Explorer, the average annual salary for teachers in Canada is $93,700, with a range of $48,700 at the lower end to an average of $143,000 at the higher end. However, the median salary in Canada is $85,200, meaning that half of the teachers in Canada earn less. Only 5% of teachers in Canada earn more than $84,800.

Canada Has High Educational Levels

Compared to a range of other countries by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Canada compares very favourably in the number of adults who have at least the minimum high school education. In 2021, 94% of Canadian adults had a high school diploma or higher, which is higher than the OECD average.

In 2020, Canada was also the world leader in the number of adults who had a tertiary education, which means a bachelor’s degree or higher. 66% of Canadians aged between 25 and 34 had a tertiary education. British Columbians are the most likely to have at least a secondary school diploma while Nunavut has the lowest share of adults with high school diplomas.

Canada Performs Well in International Comparisons

According to the World Top 20 Projects, Canada ranks fifth in the world for its education system. The top four countries are South Korea, Japan, the Netherlands, and Belgium. The ranking system looks at a range of criteria including early childhood enrollment rates, completion of primary/secondary education, college graduation rates, school safety levels, and adult illiteracy levels.

In the Programme for International Student Assessment ( PISA), comparing 15-year-old students, Canadians scored above the average in reading literacy. The average point score for OECD countries was 487 points while Canada scored 520 points. Canadian girls did better than boys in reading literacy, scoring 29 points more on average.

In mathematics, Canadian students scored 512 points, which again was higher than the OECD average of 489 points. Boys did better than girls in mathematics. However, the difference between the genders was not as striking with a point score difference of five points more for boys.

The average Canadian score in science was 518 points, while the average OECD score was 489 points. The girls performed better in the science test, scoring three points more on average than the boys.


Canada has one of the best education systems in the world. Ensuring equal access and high standards across the country means that Canada regularly performs well in international comparisons.

Canada’s public schools offer education to over 90% of Canadian children with the others attending private schools or being home-schooled. Over 2.17 million Canadians were in post-secondary education in 2.17, which is almost a million more than at the start of the millennium.

With a continued focus on the education system, Canada can continue as one of the leaders in education worldwide and ensure a high standard of education for generations to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

Canada’s government sets the standards for the education system, which are then delivered by the provincial and territorial governments. The education system includes a preschool, elementary, secondary, and post-secondary stages.

A teacher’s salary in Canada depends on the experience level, location, and type of school among other factors. However, the average salary for teachers in Canada is $93,700.

In 2022, Canada was ranked fifth in the world based on a range of factors from early childhood education to adult literacy.