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The education system in Canada encompasses both publicly-funded and private schools, including: community colleges/ technical institutes, career colleges, language schools, secondary schools, summer camps, universities and university colleges.
Education is a provincial responsibility under the Canadian constitution, which means there are significant differences between the education systems of the different provinces. However, education is important to Canadians, and standards across the country are uniformly high.
High Quality Education
Education institutions are not officially ranked in Canada, but you will find quality institutions across the country. When choosing your school in Canada, consider the type, size and location of the institution. If you are interested in a particular area of study, investigate which schools have more to offer in that discipline.
Canada has a large selection of universities and university colleges located in both urban and rural settings in every region of the country. Our universities are internationally known for the quality of teaching and research. Degrees from Canadian universities are considered to be equivalent to those from American and other Commonwealth universities. Canadian universities are largely publicly funded; as a result they are of a consistently high quality, regardless of location or area of study. As well, they all retain a high degree of academic autonomy.
Full-time student enrolments at individual universities range from over 35,000 to less than 1,000. In addition, most universities have a large number of part-time or continuing education students. They offer a broad range of courses and a full range of degrees from undergraduate to doctorates, and can also offer certificates and professional degrees. Fees for universities differ depending on the province, institution and program of study.
The university year usually runs from September to May. Some universities are on a semester or trimester system, with all courses available even in the summer. There is no Canada-wide entrance test: each university sets its own admission standards and assesses the qualifications of each applicant individually.
As Canada has two official languages - English and French - an international student can take a degree either at an English language or French language institution. Some universities offer instruction in both languages. However, students do not have to be fluent in both languages to attend a Canadian university.
To qualify for a degree program at most English-speaking universities, students for whom English is not a first language must have passed an English examination test. The TOEFL is commonly accepted but Canadian universities often have their own tests for students or may accept other English examination tests such as the IELTS.
University Colleges combine Canadian university and college traditions, with a strong base of applied and academic programs offered in campus environments. As the name suggests, a university college offers university degrees as well as college diploma and certificate programs. Students can expect to find a wide range of program choices at university colleges, including English as a Second Language (ESL) programs.
As a component of the Canadian university system, university colleges offer students a choice of either academically-oriented university degree programs or the more practically-oriented college diplomas and certificates. As part of the Canadian college system, university colleges are distinguished by their strong student support services, small classes and strong campus environments. They also may offer combined degree/diploma programs and university transfer programs.
Colleges and Technical Institutions
Colleges and Technical Institutions are popular education choices in Canada; they offer professional programs of 1 to 3 years (often including a work term) that are highly applicable in the job market. Some community colleges offer university transfer programs that allow students to take courses that are parallel to those offered for the first two years of a four year university program. Students must still apply to the university to gain admission to complete the last two years of the four year program.
The uniqueness of Canadian colleges lies in the combination of employer-centred curricula within comprehensive learning institutions which respond to national economic policy. Colleges are dynamic institutions, constantly changing to meet the economic and social needs of the communities in which they work. As such, several colleges have achieved ISO certification and all strive for quality and excellence in meeting the changing learning needs of society.
Career Colleges in Canada are privately owned institutions that offer training programs that provide students with practical skills for the job market after a short period of instruction. Students seeking short-term training programs in multimedia, film studies, computer/internet studies, graphic design and hospitality to name a few, may want to consider applying to a career college.
A technical/career college is a privately owned and operated school with the main objective of preparing students for the job market after a short period of instruction. The emphasis at technical/career colleges is on practical skills over a broad range of programs. They may specialize in specific areas such as business, computers and secretarial skills. Although privately owned, these schools are provincially approved and regulated, ensuring that program standards and quality are maintained. Career colleges have highly competitive fee structures.
Many Canadian public schools are now accepting international students into their programs. Publicly-funded schools are managed at the local level by elected school boards. Almost all public schools are co-educational and offer day programs only. Many school boards offer secular or non-religious education while others have religious affiliations. However, this varies from province to province. Policies on accepting international students and the fees charged vary from district to district.
Canada has two official languages, meaning that international students can come to Canada to study either English as a Second Language (ESL) or French as a Second Language (FSL).
International students can choose from short-term language programs, intensive immersions, executive or business programs and academic preparation courses. Some language schools offer programs that combine classroom studies with sightseeing and cultural activities, or work-study programs for advanced learners to practice their skills in the workplace. In addition, students can receive training in the teaching of ESL. Almost all universities and community colleges have ESL programs. In general, most private ESL schools are very flexible in terms of program requirements and intake dates.
FSL programs are offered both through private and public institutes. Most, but not all FSL schools are located in the province of Qu┘bec. Similar to ESL programs, students can usually enter an FSL school program at any time of the year for any length of study. Students enrolled in ESL or FSL programs for up to six months may study in Canada without a Study Permit.
The academic year usually starts in September and ends in May, and is normally divided into two semesters. Some institutes operate on a semester or trimester system and admit students in January and/or May as well as September. Many institutes offer a limited number of courses and special programmes during the summer session.
General Steps for the International Students to study in Canada
- Find suitable course or program
- Apply to Secured Life International Group (SLIG)
- Receive offer letter
- Meet VISA conditions and apply for VISA
- Receive COE, health check, send passport for VISA
- Obtain visa and go to Canada to start to study
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