The Quebec education system

The Quebec education system - CPS Tutoring

If you are new to Quebec, the education system may be a bit of a mystery – whether you have arrived from abroad or from another province.

If you come to Quebec from outside Canada, your child(ren) will be expected to do their schooling in French, unless they attend an English private school receiving no government funding.  If you move to Quebec from another province where your child has been receiving their education in English, they are eligible to attend English school.

This post is broken into four sections; scroll down for more detail on each.

  • Preschool

    Maternelle (ages 4/5-6)

  • Primary School - Grades 1-6

    École primaire (ages 6-12)

  • Secondary School - Grades 7-11 or Sec 1-5

    École secondaire (ages 12-17)

  • College - Grades 12-13

    CEGEP (ages 17-19)

  1. Preschool/Kindergarten (maternelle and maternelle pour 4 ans)

Kindergarten or preschool is generally the year before primary education. Children start kindergarten the year they turn 5 before 30 September. So, to start kindergarten 01 September 2021 a child must be 5 years of age by 30 Sep 2021.

Depending on where you live in Quebec, there are also pre-kindergarten programs available (4-year-old kindergarten). These programs are for children who will turn 4 before 30 September of the year in which they start Pre-k.

  1. Primary School (École primaire)

Primary school is for students aged 6-12. In English this covers grades 1-6 which are known in French as années 1 à 6.

  1. Secondary School (École secondaire)

Secondary school is for children generally aged 12-17.  It covers grades 7-11 which in French are known as Secondaire 1 à 5 ou Sec 1 à 5. On completion of Grade 11, students in Quebec receive their provincial high school certificate.

Compulsory school ends on receipt of a high school certificate or at the end of the academic year during which a student turns 16, whichever comes first.

  1. College (CÉGEP)

CÉGEP stands for Collège d’enseignement general et professionnel which translates as General and Professional Teaching College.

There are two main streams of Cégep: Technical training and Pre-university education. For both options, when you successfully complete your program you are awarded the Diploma of College Studies (DCS), or, as it is more commonly known, Diplôme d’études collégiales (DEC).

If you are looking to get qualified and start working right away, CÉGEP Technical training may be for you. Most programs last 3 years and include compulsory general education subjects such as English, French, and Physical Education, alongside field-specific courses. Courses range from 3D animation and computer-generated imagery, adventure tourism and furniture making, to dental hygiene, professional theatre, and nursing.

The advantages of Technical training are:

  • There are practical, sometimes paid, internships giving you useful skills and experience in your chosen profession.
  • Quebec is currently experiencing a labour shortage, so you have a good chance of finding a job in your chosen profession at the end of your program.

Alternately, pre-university programs prepare you for entrance to university courses. Courses vary from arts and literature, to science, dance, music, and engineering.

The advantages of Pre-university education are:

  • More time to study broader subject areas before deciding what you would like to do or study in more depth
  • Meeting entry requirements for universities in Quebec and across Canada

This is just a brief introduction to the Quebec education system. To find out more or find the right school near you, check out the following websites:

Primary, secondary and college (only available in French)