School system in Montreal


The Canadian education system follows a three-stage system:

  • Primary
  • Secondary or Elementary
  • Post-secondary
Primary and secondary education is publicly funded. Schooling begins with kindergarten at age 5 and ends with Grade 12 (at about age 18) in a K-12 system. It is administered by the Ministry of Education (Ministère de l'Éducation)

Children attend school Monday to Friday for six hours a day for approximately 190 school days per year. The school year begins in September, after Labour Day, and finishes at the end of June. Students receive a one to two week break from school at Christmas, a week break in either February (Spring Break) or March (March Break), as well as public, provincial, and territorial holidays.

Education System in Québec

The system within Québec is overseen by the Ministry of Education, Recreation and Sports (Ministère de l'Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport). The education system is made up of public and private French and English educational institutions. Education is compulsory in Canada up to the age 16. The primary language of instruction is French. Québec's education system is a bit different from Canadas in that it has four levels:

  • Elementary (includes preschool)
  • Secondary Cycle I
  • Secondary Cycle II
  • College and university
Education is free at the elementary, secondary and college levels. University students are required to pay tuition, which is relatively low by North American standards.

English Language Schools

Québec has publicly funded French and English schools. According to the Charter of the French Language, all students must attend French language public schools, except:

  • Children whose parents have done most of their elementary studies in English anywhere in Canada and the parents are Canadian citizens,
  • Children that have already done all or most of their elementary or secondary studies in English anywhere in Canada, or has a sibling that has received most of their education in English anywhere in Canada, as long as the parents are Canadian citizens.
These rules do not apply to temporary residents of Québec or First Nation children. If a parent had the right to attend English schools, but did not, they do not lose the right for their children. English is taught as a second language in French schools from Grade 1, and a few schools also offer English immersion programs for advanced students. English schools offer a wide range of programs that include French as a second language, French immersion, and fully bilingual programs that teach both English and French as first languages.


On report cards, marks are shown as letters and an average of the three marks associated to the subject will be calculated. For example, if a student achieves A, A- and B+ in a subject, teachers will calculate an average of the three marks (in this case, 90%). The passing mark in Québec is 60%.

Stages of Education

Primary School

Kindergarten (maternelle) begins between the ages 5-6 and primary or elementary school (école primaire) ends in either Grades 6 or 8. Middle schools or junior highs are intended to prepare students for secondary education. These schools generally offer Grade 5, 6 or 7 to 8 or 9.

At a primary school level, one classroom teacher instructs students in all general subjects. Specialized teachers may instruct students in music, visual arts, or physical education.

Secondary School

Secondary schools are commonly referred to as high schools or école secondaire. Secondary School is five years, called Secondary I-V (or Sec I-V) or simply grades 7-11. This is divided into two "cycles", corresponding to junior high school grades 7-8 and senior grades 9-11. High school students who complete Secondary V receive their high school diploma.

Areas of education at the secondary school level may include math, chemistry, physics, biology, history, economics, political science, visual arts, performance arts, information technology, robotics, literature, French language, foreign language (Spanish, English, etc.). Individual instructors teach each subject.

Private School

Québec has the highest proportion of children going to private schools in North America with about 17% of the student population. This number rises even higher, at about 30%, within the city of Montréal. Private schools may be the best option for an expat family as they can offer an elevated level of education, or cater to a specialty like language or religion. Most private schools are secondary institutions, though there are a few primary schools. Private secondary schools usually select their students by having them go through their own scholastic exams and by making a study of the entire primary school record.

It is important to visit a school to determine the best fit for you and your child. Most private schools have open days for prospective parents, but it is wise to ask to make an appointment to visit on a normal working day.

    Questions to Ask
  • Special needs: Does the school have facilities and suitably qualified and experienced staff to look after any special needs your child may have? Is there a program for gifted and talented children or special provision for those with physical disabilities? Is their a language requirement that could aid your child?
  • Curriculum: Is it broad and balanced? Will your child have an adequate range of options? Are there specialist teachers?
  • The staff: How well qualified are they? Is there reasonable staff stability? Do the teachers stay long in post?
  • Extra activities: Does the school offer an exciting extra-curricular activities programme that will stimulate your child's interest? If you are considering boarding school, you will want to know what activities the school provides for children in the evening and at weekends.
  • Diploma: What kind of certification is available upon completion? Is it accepted internationally? Do they offer the IB?


Fees range from school to school so make sure to compare. The government of Québec gives a pro rata subsidy for each child to any private school which meets its standards and follows its prescriptions. To receive a grant, private and independent schools must be accredited in Québec and hire certified teachers. This can reduce tuition to approximately 30% of non-subsidized private schools. Ask at the school for scholarship opportunities and subsidy information.

Extra activities like instrumental instruction, school uniforms, or school trips may require additional fees. Many private schools have their own second-hand shops selling uniforms and other supplies.

Private Schools in Montréal

Herzliah High School
Address: 4840 St. Kevin, bureau 210
Montréal, QC H3W lP2
Tel: (514) 739-2291
Tuition: $3,160 - $5,620 per year

Jewish Co-Ed school providing classes from grades kindergarten - 6th grade.

Trafalgar School for Girls
Address: 3495 Simpson
Montréal, QC H3G 2J7
Tel: 514-935-2644
Tuition: $13,075 -$13,075 per year

All girls school serving grades 7-11. It was established as the first English girls; school in Montréal.

The Priory School
Address: 3120 The Boulevard
Montréal, QC H3Y 1R9
Tel: 514-935-5966
Tuition: $8,670 -$12,390 per year

An English co-ed school with a strong French program, this school serves kindergarten to 6th grade. It was founded in 1947 on Catholic traditions, but today welcomes all religious backgrounds.

St. George's School of Montréal
Address: 3100 The Boulevard
Montréal, QC H3Y 1R9
Tel: 514-937-9289
Tuition: $14,300 -$14,300 per year

St. George's School is Montréal's oldest co-ed English Language Independent School.

Collège Regina Assumpta (CRA)
Address: 1750, rue Sauriol Est
Montréal, QC H2C 1X4
Tel: 514-382-4121
Tuition: $2,750 - $2,750 per year

Founded in 1955, the CRA is a secondary school with instruction in French. The building and building are owned by the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame. The College is also a member of the Federation of Private Educational Institutions (FEEP).

College Jean de Brebeuf
Address: 3200 Chemin de la côte Ste-Catherine
Montréal, QC H3T 1C1, Canada
Tel: (514) 342-9342

A private French-language educational institution offering secondary school and CEGEP college-level instruction. It is a co-ed establishment for students in their final year of secondary school and in college. It is boys-only in the first four years of secondary school. It retains a dress code, but no specific uniform. It also provides a boarding school for college students wishing to reside at the college from Monday to Friday.

College Jean Eudes
Address: 3535 Rosemont Boul
Montréal, QC, Canada
Tel: (514) 376-5740

Elite private French-language high school. Prospective students must pass an entrance exam to be accepted in the school. A maximum of 350 students are admitted each year to form and maintain 10 groups of 35 in each grade. Students must wear uniforms.

Lower Canada College (LCC)
Address: 4090 Royal Ave
Montréal, QC, Canada
Tel: (514) 482-0951
Tuition: $13,475 to $17,415 per year

An elementary and secondary level co-educational private school offering classes from Kindergarten through Grade 12. Students graduate from Grade 11, and then have the option of leaving the school and going on to CEGEP, which is the university preparatory system in Québec, or returning to LCC for the Pre-University year.


Post-secondary education in Québec begins following Grade 11, also known as Secondary V. Québec is the only province that requires 11 (rather than 12) years of study in order to obtain the high school diploma. While standard admission to college is based on the secondary school diploma of Québec (representing completion of grade 11), completion of the two-year college program does not give students the equivalent of a university Diploma. Holders of the two-year college diploma still must complete a minimum of three years of university education in order to obtain a Bachelor's degree.

There are a mix of French and English, private and public universities in Montréal. Degrees include undergraduate (3-4 years), master's (2-3 years) and doctoral (3-5 years) programs. The degrees awarded meet the highest international standards. The fall semester begins at the end of August or in early September. The winter session begins in the first week of January. Some universities offer a summer session which normally runs from early May to mid-August.


Public collegiates in Québec are commonly referred to as CEGEP (Collège d'enseignement général et professionnel), known officially in English as a "General and Vocational College". CEGEP can only legally be used to describe state-run post-secondary schools, but this is not strictly adhered to. CEGEPs offer two-year pre-university programs and three-year technical programs leading to a Diploma of College Studies (DCS). They also provide shorter technical programs leading to an Attestation of College Studies (ACS). These students can specialize in a number of different vocational or pre-university fields.

Tuition & Funding

Tuition fees are lowest in Québec, which receives the most public funding for post-secondary education in Canada. Public CEGEP's have little or no tuition fees. Some Canadian universities may offer entrance scholarships ($500-$10,000) to encourage international students to enroll.

Many people take out private loans to facilitate higher education. Private companies, such as the Paras Education Foundation, offer student loans to international students studying in Canada. No collateral or margin money is required, and repayment periods are up to 20 years. Loans are available to all international students, regardless of nationality, with a cap of up to $65,000 USD per year per co-guarantor. Interest rates range from 7% to 8%. The Global Student Loan Corporation offers similar services and does not require a Canadian cosigner. In addition to covering your tuition, Global Student Loan Corporation also provides funding for other school related essentials such as insurance, electronics, travel, and housing.

However, if you are planning to pursue graduate or postgraduate studies in Canada as an international student, tuition fees in Canada can be very high. Fees are often two to four times that of Canadian students. For example, the average tuition for an undergraduate humanities program in Canada is $5,000, meaning an international student would have to pay between $10,000 to $20,000 tuition per year. International students studying on a student visa in Canada are not eligible for bank loans or government issued student loans, but some schools offer dedicated scholarships to international students. Inquire at the school. International students are required to provide proof of funds for the entirety of their study period in order to obtain a temporary study permit. (For more information on visas, refer to the section on "Passport, Visa & Permits").

Universities in Montréal

Concordia University
Address: 7141 Sherbrooke Street West
Montréal, QC H4B 1R6, Canada
Tel: (514) 848-2424

Public university with English as the primary language of instruction. It is among the largest in Canada with about 45,000 students. The school ranks highly in Canada and internationally in fields such as fine arts, social science, journalism and engineering.

Université de Montréal (UdeM)
Address: 2900 Boulevard Edouard-Montpetit
Montréal, QC H3T 1J4, Canada
Tel: (514) 343-6111

A public research university, this francophone institution has more than sixty departments and two affiliated schools: the école Polytechnique (School of Engineering) and HEC Montréal (School of Business). It offers more than 650 undergraduate programmes and graduate programmes, including 71 doctoral programmes.

École de technologie supérieure (ETS)
Address: 1100, rue Notre-Dame Ouest
Montréal, Québec H3C 1K3
Tel: 514 396-8800

ETS is a public engineering school which specializes in applied teaching in engineering and technology transfer. It is ranked first in Québec and third in Canada for the total number of engineering diplomas awarded annually.

École Polytechnique de Montréal
Address: 2900, boul. édouard-Montpetit
Montréal, QC H3T 1J4, Canada
Tel: (514) 340-4711

An engineering school affiliated with the University of Montréal. It ranks first in Canada for the scope of its engineering research.

HEC Montréal
Address: Côte-Sainte-Catherine Building, 3000 Côte-Sainte-Catherine Road
Montréal, Québec Canada H3T 2A7
Tel: 514 340-6000

HEC Montréal (formerly known as: école des Hautes études commerciales de Montréal), is the independent affiliated business school of the Université de Montréal. It is the oldest management School in Canada and holds accreditations from AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA - one of three schools in North America to hold triple accreditation in management education. It favors a multilingual approach to business education, offering bilingual (French and English) and trilingual (French, English and Spanish) bachelor's degrees, and graduate degrees both in English and in French.

McGill University
Address: 555 Sherbrooke Rue O
Montréal, QC, Canada
Tel: (514) 398-3471

McGill University is an internationally-renowned research university. It is listed among the top 20 universities globally. Approximately 34,000 students attend McGill, with international students comprising one-fifth of the student population. The language of instruction is English, but students have the right to submit any graded work in English or in French, except when learning a particular language is an objective of the course. Notable alumni include eight Nobel Laureates, one hundred and thirty-two Rhodes Scholars, three astronauts, two Canadian prime ministers, eleven justices of the Canadian Supreme Court, three foreign leaders, nine Academy Award winners, three Pulitzer Prize winners, and twenty-eight Olympic medalists. McGill University is one of two member-universities of the Association of American Universities situated outside the United States.

Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)
Address: 405 rue Sainte-Catherine Street East
Montréal, Québec H2L 2C4, Canada
Tel: (514) 987-3000

The Université du Québec à Montréal is a public French-language university. It is the largest constituent element of the Université du Québec (UQ). The school was founded on April 9, 1969 by the government of Québec, through the merger of the école des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, a fine arts school; the Collège Sainte-Marie, a classical college; and a number of smaller schools. Although part of the UQ network, UQAM possesses a relative independence which allows it to print its own diplomas and choose its rector.


Montréal has an elaborate library network known as the Montréal Public Libraries Network (Réseau des bibliothèques publiques de Montréal). It is the largest French language public library system in North America. It also has items in English and other languages.

Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ)
The National Library and Archives of Québec is the provincial library and archives of Québec. It offers free, universal access to all its collections.

Update 21/05/2013


Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Pinterest WhatsApp Addthis

Recommended Partners

Learn a language

Babbel is an international success with millions of active subscribers and ranked as the world's #1 innovative company in education.

Why Babbel?

Learn and review on your own schedule: Mobile, tablet or desktop compatible, with lessons about 10-15 min.

Expert-made courses: Learn the basics or focus on topics like travel, culture, or business.

Start speaking right away: Learn to speak a new language naturally and conversationally.

Every learner is different: Each course is based on your native language and personal interests.

Remember everything: Babbel employs proven cognitive techniques that move new vocab to your long-term memory.

Refine your pronunciation: Practise speaking and improve your pronunciation with speech recognition technology.

Try Babbel for free today

Registration with Babbel is completely free of charge and the first lesson in every course is FREE to try (Depending on the language you choose, that's 30-80 free lessons!).

If you want full access to Babbel's courses, simply choose a subscription that works best for you. Buy with confidence: 20-day money back guarantee!

Do you have comments or personal information to communicate about this article? Add your comment.

Find more definitions and general answers on expatriation issues in the Expat FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions).

Go to the Forum to talk more about school system in Montreal, education.

Download the full digital PDF expat guide in Montreal

Download the guide: Montreal, Canada
  • See in one single booklet all the articles for a city guide for expatriates.
  • Enjoy full colour photos to illustrate each section.
  • Additionnal maps: Region, City view, Neighborhood, Street view.

  • - My Life Abroad -
    A selection of expat stories

    "A fun compulsive read!"
    J. Matcham, Amazon

    "I strongly advise people ready to live abroad to read this book!"
    Patrice, Amazon