Quebec School System – Understanding Québec’s Education System

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Quebec School System? Education in Quebec is run by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur). Thus, it was administered at the local level by publicly elected French and English school boards, changed in 2020 to school service centers.


However, teachers are represented by province-wide unions that negotiate province-wide working conditions with local boards and the provincial government of Quebec.


The Quebec education system has four levels- the kindergarten & elementary education level, secondary education level, college education, and the University level. Preschool education in Québec is also called kindergarten.

Elementary/primary and secondary/ high school education includes general education and vocational training.

College education includes two streams: pre-university education and technical training university education had to do with undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate studies as well as postdoctoral studies.

Elementary Education

Elementary school education starts in kindergarten at the age of 5 and covers a period of seven or eight years (age 5 to 12). Although some elementary schools may also offer Pre-Kindergarten which begins at age 4. The elementary program is divided into four Cycles with two grade levels in each Cycle- Preschool, One, Two, and Three.


The grades are Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten.

  • Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5, Grade 6.

Secondary Education

Secondary education covers a 5-year period (from age 12 to 17) and begins in Secondary I (which is grade 7).  The secondary program is divided into two cycles: Cycle One and Two.


  • Secondary I and II (Grades 7,8).
  • Secondary III to V (Grades 9,10,11).

However, the successful completion of the general secondary program is recognized by the Diplôme d’études secondaires (DES – Diploma of Secondary Studies). The DES grants access to the first level of higher education, which is provided by a type of institution unique to Québec, that is the Collège d’enseignement général et professionnel (or CEGEP).


Vocational Training

Vocational education is part of the secondary school education system and is available to both youth and adults. Students can enroll in vocational training after having successfully completed Secondary III or Secondary IV (9 or 10 years of schooling).

Vocational training programs lead students directly to the job market, with students receiving one of the following official diplomas.


College is another level of education in Québec. The college-level of education is provided by public institutions known as CEGEPs as well as by private colleges. However, this level may serve as a bridge between compulsory schooling (elementary and secondary) and university. College-level institutions offer;



The University education level is provided by universities and follows graduation from a pre-university education program at the college level. The structure of university education in Québec is similar to other universities found elsewhere in North America. However, there are 3 levels of university studies;

  • The Bachelor’s (cycle 1), takes 3 or 4 years, depending on the course of study.
  • Master’s (cycle 2), takes 1 or 2 years.
  • Doctoral (cycle 3), takes 3 years or more.

Nevertheless, lots of universities also offer short programs of various lengths, such as those leading to specialized graduate studies certificates or diplomas. Universities include faculties in various kinds of course areas as well as professional schools such as those specializing in business and engineering.


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