Reading time: ( words)
The Canadian curriculum - key facts

The Canadian curriculum - key facts

While the overall number of Canadian schools may be small in comparison to US curriculum schools, Canada is still a sizeable player in the international schools market. Canadian international schools are found all around the world, with particular clusters in Brazil, China and India. Nick Morrison gives us the key facts...


According to the International Schools Consultancy, 328 international schools are offering a Canadian curriculum education in 2016/17. Many more Canadian schools offer the International Baccalaureate programmes, while some provide a mix of routes.

School generally starts with kindergarten at five or Grade 1 at six to the end of Grade 12 at 18, with the school year running from September to June. 

Schools are normally divided into elementary schools, from kindergarten to Grade 5, middle schools from grades 6 to 8 and high schools, covering grades 9 to 12.

There is no national curriculum in Canada. Instead, international schools will align themselves with the curriculum, and the examination regime, of a particular province.

" schools will align themselves with the curriculum, and the examination regime, of a particular province."

A typical elementary curriculum is built around a core of maths, English and science, supplemented with the arts, social studies, technology and physical education. Students usually also have lessons in the host country’s culture and language.

Middle schools continue with a wide range of subjects, while high schools see a degree of specialisation.

From grades 9 to 12, students following a Canadian pathway will study for a diploma, known as a high school or secondary school diploma, depending on which province’s programme the school follows.

This typically takes the form of academic and applied courses in grades 9 and 10, and varying levels of courses in grades 11 and 12, depending on ability and aptitude. 

Students normally have to earn a certain number of credits, from compulsory and optional courses, to receive the diploma, and may also be required to complete community service and pass a literacy test. The diploma is a recognised qualification for university admission.

As well as the diploma, students will normally take provincial achievement tests throughout their time in school, as part of a continuous evaluation. These are typically taken in grades 3, 6 and 9.

Some international schools run a Canadian curriculum alongside other routes, so students may find themselves switching between systems. For example, students may study a Canadian curriculum up to grade 8, then the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), a qualification similar to England’s GCSE, in grades 9 and 10 and the IB diploma in grades 11 and 12.

All images: The Canadian International School of Hong Kong

Similar Articles

Types of curriculum

Essential information

Types of assessment

Essential information

Further Reading

Sign Up for Winter's Updates