Education is a priority for Québec. The education system is of excellent quality. It is structured around four levels of education: primary (including preschool), secondary, college and university. In the public system, education is free from kindergarten to college.
The education system
The public education system is built on a linguistic basis—French and English—according to the language of instruction used in the schools. Since French is the official language of Québec, children of immigrants, regardless of their mother tongue, must normally attend a school in the Francophone school board in their locality until the end of their high school studies. The school is a place of integration for these students, where they have the opportunity to learn French and discover Québec culture.
|Level of education||Number of years|
|Preschool||1 to 2 years|
|Primary school||6 years|
|Secondary school||5 years|
|College (Cégep)||2 to 3 years|
|University (Bachelor’s degree)||3 to 4 years|
|University (Master’s degree)||2 years|
|University (PhD)||3 years or more|
Public school vs. Private school
In Québec, children can attend a private school or a free public school.
Public schools are the responsibility of the Government of Québec. Education is free of charge. However, the purchase of school equipment, the fees for daycare services and for participating in certain activities are to be expected. In general, students attend the public school in their neighbourhood or community.
The private school network is recognized by the Government of Québec. These institutions offer formal learning programs recognized by the government. To attend a private school, however, you must pay tuition fees and respect the admission requirements specific to each school.
Public schools are available throughout Québec. Private schools are not found in all communities. The best way to make the right choice is to visit the public and private schools near your home and choose the one that offers the best education for your child according to your needs and guidelines.
Primary and secondary education
Pre-school education (pre-school and kindergarten) prepares children for primary schooling. It provides them with a supportive framework that promotes their development, allows them to gradually become familiar with a stimulating learning environment and enables them to acquire skills that will pave the way towards their school success. Pre-school education is not mandatory, but the vast majority of eligible children are enrolled in kindergarten. Pre-kindergarten enrolment is less common.
Whether or not they have attended kindergarten, all six-year-olds must be enrolled in primary school. Primary education lasts six years. The education program is divided into three two-year cycles. Services are also available for students with learning disabilities.
Secondary education: general education program
Successful completion of secondary education, which lasts five years, leads to a high school diploma (DES) and gives access to higher education. Lower secondary education, which covers the first three years, focuses on a general basic education program. Upper secondary education allows students to pursue, in two years, their general education while providing them with the opportunity to explore, through an elective course system, various avenues before accessing college studies or acquiring vocational training leading to a trade.
Secondary school: vocational training
Vocational training programs lead to the practice of skilled and semi-skilled trades. These programs lead to either the Diploma of Vocational Studies (DEP), the Certificate of Vocational Specialization (ASP), or the Certificate of Vocational Training (AFP). Admission requirements are not the same for all professional programs and the duration of these programs vary from one to two years, based on program choice.
In the Québec education system, the college (or CEGEP, for collège d’enseignement général et professionnel) is the first level of higher education. To be eligible, you must hold a high school diploma (DES) or a vocational diploma (DEP). CEGEPs and some private colleges offer students a choice between:
- two-year pre-university study programs that are designed to prepare students for university;
- three-year technical study programs that lead to jobs as technicians or technologists. Technical training can also, under certain conditions, give access to some university programs.
University education is the second level of higher education. The duration of university studies varies according to the field and degree chosen.
Québec is home to several universities, colleges and research institutes, which are mainly located in the greater Montréal area, Québec City and Sherbrooke. University education is also available in most regions, thanks to the Université du Québec network, with institutions in the following cities: Rouyn-Noranda, Saguenay, Gatineau, Rimouski and Trois-Rivières, and also through Télé-université (distance teaching universities).
The Qualifications Québec website provides information on the programs available at the various educational institutions in Québec (CEGEPs and universities).
Comparative evaluation of diplomas
To find out what Quebec educational equivalent your foreign degree compares to, the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration offers comparative evaluations of studies carried out outside Québec. This expert opinion compares studies completed in other countries to the Québec school system, its main diplomas and training fields. However, comparative evaluations of studies carried out outside Québec is neither a diploma nor a diploma equivalency.
To find out the steps involved in having your studies recognized, visit the Qualifications Québec website.