Secondary education in Canada is for children aged from 12 to 18 (grades 7 to 12). It generally takes place in a high school, which may be divided into junior and senior high. Junior high is for those aged 12 to 14 (grades 7 to 9) and senior high for ages 15 to 17 (grades 10 to 12). In Quebec, students attend high school for grades 7 to 11 and then transfer to a general and vocational college (collége d’enseignement général et Professionnel/CEGEP) for a further two or three years. Like elementary education, secondary education is mixed.


Secondary schools may specialize in academic or vocational streams or the arts; all include some kind of ‘streaming’ system that’s designed to prepare students for a vocational or community college or university. Mandatory or ‘core’ curriculum subjects must be studied for a prescribed number of years or terms, as decided by each province. These generally include English (French), math, general science, health, sport (physical education) and social studies or social sciences (which may include Canadian history and government, geography, world history and social problems). In addition to mandatory subjects, students choose optional subjects (electives) that will benefit them in the future.


Electives usually comprise around half of a student’s work in grades 9 to 12. Around the ninth grade, students receive career guidance counselling as they begin to plan their careers and select subjects that will be useful in their chosen fields. Counselling continues throughout the senior high school years and into college. Larger schools may offer a selection of elective courses aimed at three or more levels: academic, vocational and general. Students planning to go on to college or university elect courses with an emphasis on academic sciences (biology, chemistry, physics), higher mathematics (algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus), advanced English or French literature, composition, social sciences or foreign languages.


The vocational program may provide training in four fields: agricultural education which prepares students for farm management and operation; business education which trains students for the commercial field; home economics which prepares students for home management, child care and care of the sick; and trade and industrial education which provides training for jobs in mechanical, manufacturing, building and other trades. Students interested in entering business from high school may take typing, book-keeping, computer studies or ‘business’ English or French.

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