In Québec, education is a priority. Its high-quality education system is composed of four levels: elementary (including preschool), secondary, college and university. In the public system, education is free from kindergarten to college.
The education system
Québec has a renowned education system and internationally-recognized diplomas, as demonstrated by its position at the top of the annual ranking of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The public education system is built on a linguistic basis, French or English, depending on the language of instruction in the schools. Since French is the official language in Québec, immigrant children, regardless of their mother tongue, must generally attend school under the French school board for their area until they complete their secondary schooling. For these students, school is a place of integration where they learn French and discover Québec culture.
|Level of education||Number of years|
|Preschool||1 to 2 years|
|College (CEGEP)||2 to 3 years|
|University (Bachelor’s)||3 to 4 years|
|University (Master’s)||2 years|
|University (PhD)||3 years +|
Public vs private
In Québec, children can attend a free public school or a private school.
Public school is free without any additional costs. This makes it easy to calculate the portion of your family budget to set aside for your child’s education.
The private school network is recognized by the Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur. These establishments also offer official study programs. However, they charge tuition fees and have specific admission requirements.
The best way to make the right choice is to visit several schools and choose the one that offers the best education for your child, based on your criteria.
Elementary and secondary
Preschool education (kindergarten) prepares children for elementary school. It provides them with a framework that promotes personal development, gradually introduces them to a stimulating learning environment and enables them to acquire skills that will contribute to their school success. While kindergarten is not mandatory, the vast majority of eligible children attend.
Whether they have attended kindergarten or not, at the age of six children must be enrolled in elementary school. Elementary education consists of six years divided into three 2-year cycles. Services are also available for students with learning difficulties.
Secondary education: general studies
Successful completion of secondary studies, which last five years, leads to a Secondary School Diploma (SSD) and opens the door to higher education. The first cycle of secondary education, which covers the first three years, focuses on general studies. The second cycle allows students to continue their general studies for two years, while providing them with the opportunity to explore, through optional courses, various subject areas leading to collegial studies or vocational studies to train them to practise a trade.
Secondary school: vocational studies
Vocational education programs lead to the practice of a skilled or semi-skilled trade. These programs lead to a Diploma of Vocational Studies (DVS), an Attestation of Vocational Specialization (AVS), or an Attestation of Vocational Education (AVE). Entrance requirements are not the same for all vocational training programs and their duration varies from one to two years, depending on the program.
CEGEP and university
In the Québec education system, colleges are the first level of higher education. To be eligible, you must hold a Secondary School Diploma (SSD) or a Diploma of Vocational Studies (DVS). The collège d’enseignment général et professionnel (CEGEP) and certain private colleges offer students a choice between:
- pre-university studies that last two years and prepare them for university;
- technical studies that last three years and lead to employment as a technician or technologist. In some cases, technical studies can also lead to university.
Some CEGEPs also offer the international baccalaureate. They offer many technical training programs in the following five areas:
- biological technologies,
- physical technologies,
- community technologies,
- business administrative technologies,
- applied arts.
University education constitutes the second level of higher education. The duration of study varies according to the discipline and level chosen.
Québec is home to several universities, higher learning centres and research institutes, concentrated in Montréal, Québec City and Sherbrooke. University studies are also accessible in most regions through the Université du Québec network present in Rouyn-Noranda, Saguenay, Gatineau, Rimouski and Trois-Rivières, as well as through Télé-université.
To find out about the equivalence of your diplomas, the government has established the Évaluation comparative des études effectuées hors du Québec, a document that indicates how studies done outside Québec correspond to the Québec education system and its main diplomas.