Do you dream of living and studying in Quebec?

Which school, training program or university should you choose from the vast Quebec school system? Whether you want to enroll your child or come to study in a North American institution, discover the advantages and particularities of the Quebec school system, not to mention the opportunities for professional or university studies that could blossom your career.


Getting a taste of Québec culture also means experiencing student life to the fullest. Every year, more than 50,000 foreign students choose to study in Québec. The abundance of study programs, the excellence of the teaching, the uniqueness of the educational culture generate new impulses and aspirations in many newcomers!

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Providing an environment conducive to educational success and retention is a priority for the public education system. As in the provincial jurisdiction, Quebec is responsible for educational programs, the organization of the system, its financing and pedagogical choices.

As a French-speaking province within a predominantly English-speaking Canada, Quebec is committed to defending and protecting the French language. With this in mind, attendance at French schools is mandatory, including for non-French speaking students who enter a reception class before joining a regular class.

Another particularity of the education system is the transition from an education marked by the Catholic religion to an assumed secular education. A deep collective reflection led the Ministry of Education to transform compulsory religious education into a course in ethics and religious culture. Reflecting the multicultural and religious diversity of society, this new course educates about the six major religions in a spirit of religious neutrality.

The pedagogical approach is also distinguished by its respect for the student’s personality and its openness to individual needs. It translates into values, ways of teaching and interacting that tend to place the student at the center of his or her learning. Autonomy, voice and cooperation are valued. Learning through experience (and mistakes), exercises and practical cases prevails over more theoretical teaching.

The attitude of the teachers associated with “positive reinforcement” aims at encouraging the student in his progress rather than sanctioning error or failure.


Choosing a school for your child or registering as a foreign student is often at the heart of the immigration project. How does the school system in Quebec work? Which school should I choose? What is a CEGEP? Which are the best universities? What are the equivalency requirements for diplomas? Being well informed is part of HP & Associés’ mission!


Montrealers benefit from a diversified network of general education and special education schools. Intermediaries between the Ministère de l’Éducation (MEQ) and the schools, the School Service Centres play the role of organizing educational services and ensuring the academic success of more than one million students from different backgrounds and with special needs..

In a few figures...

Education in Quebec is:

  • 61 school service centers
  • 2 school boards with special status and 9 English boards
  • 2,370 public schools
  • 183 adult education centers
  • 187 vocational training centers
  • 1,200,000 million students in preschool, elementary, secondary, vocational and adult education through the commitment of nearly 150,000 employees


Are you a parent of a preschooler? Several educational services are offered to children from 4 years of age where activities and games are aimed at their development before they enter school. Kindergarten is compulsory for all children starting at age 5. The basic notions of writing and mathematics are approached in a playful way.


Primary education lasts 6 years and is divided into three sections. In general, each class has a regular teacher for the basic subjects and dedicated teachers for certain subjects such as music, sports, art…

To enroll your 6 year old child in elementary school, contact your local school for admission details, even if you choose another school, such as a special purpose school or in another neighborhood.  However, priority for admission is given to families who live in the school’s territory.

Official registration period:

– General (regular) program: mid-January

– Specific programs or components: in October

During the year and during the summer:

– Make an appointment at your local school

To find the school in your neighborhood, learn about admission criteria and required documents, find out about schools offering a special program, about welcoming classes for immigrant families, about the general operation of schools, about the possibility of waiving the age of eligibility for preschool and elementary school… visit the Montreal School Service Centre website at the following address: www.cssdm.gouv.qc.ca.

Good to know

On the way to school, your child may be eligible for free school transportation.

When it comes to after-school care, many schools organize educational activities (arts, sports, etc.) after school hours and during breaks (pedagogical days, spring break).

As for school meals, some schools offer catering services. High schools often have their own cafeterias. However, many children bring their own lunch boxes.

For more information: www.cssdm.gouv.qc.ca


The first two years are general education and then from the third year of secondary school students have certain optional courses.

Secondary education is divided into two cycles and lasts five years:

  • 1st cycle: 1st and 2nd secondary
  • Cycle 2: Secondary 3, 4 and 5

The regular secondary school program emphasizes general education and all the competencies identified by the MEES (Ministry of Education and Ministry of Higher Education) in order to fulfill its educational mission to instruct, socialize and qualify.

Entry into secondary school remains an important step in the educational pathway that already guides a certain course of study.  As early as Secondary IV, students will have to make course choices that will be important for their future studies, particularly for access to certain college programs.

In addition to the regular program, students may wish to develop specific skills according to their aspirations, for example in sports, the arts or the sciences. The Quebec school network contains several schools with special educational projects. These are called special education programs (SEP). The Centre de Services Scolaire de Montréal presents them on its website: “Programmes et options”.

Choosing the right school is a priority for many students and families. That’s why, between September and October, public and private high schools open their doors for you to visit the school and meet the teachers who will listen to your questions. These are “open house” days!

At the end of high school, students obtain a Secondary School Diploma (SSD). At the end of these five years, students receive a Secondary School Diploma (SSD) and can then go on to CEGEP or vocational training.

To learn more about these programs, you can consult the website “Le secondaire à ma portée” (in French only) and the website of the Centre des services scolaires de Montréal (in French only) for the educational pathways at the end of Cycle One of secondary school.


College education is the entrance to Cégep: “Collège d’Enseignement Général Et Professionnel”. The Cégep is a public educational institution that bridges the gap between high school and university. Students generally enter at the age of 17 and the pre-university training lasts two years. Upon graduation, students obtain a “Diplôme d’Études Collégiales” (DEC), the equivalent of the French baccalauréat. In addition to this preparation for university, Cégeps also offer three-year technical training programs for adults returning to school. Their diploma, an Attestation of Collegial Studies (AEC), is the equivalent of a BTS in France. These professional training programs are designed to enhance employability in the job market or to propel one’s career with new professional skills.

To learn more about CEGEPs in Quebecwww.cegepsquebec.ca


After high school, students may choose to go to a professional training center to quickly enter a trade. These centers are specialized and have modern facilities and equipment to allow students to learn by working with the tools of their future trade.

There are 21 sectors of vocational training such as: secretarial, computer, mechanical, beauty care, photography, butchery etc. At the end of these studies, the student obtains a Diploma of Professional Studies (“diplôme d’études professionnelles DEP”) and can either enter the job market directly or enter CEGEP to continue his or her studies, in which case certain courses will be recognized.


Before planning to go to university, it is wise to know that some university programs are limited. As a result, students are selected on the basis of certain criteria, including the college performance rating, known as the “R” rating. The R-score is a measure of a student’s academic level in relation to the performance of other high school students. This measure is intended to rank candidates as objectively and fairly as possible. In addition to the R-score, selection may be based on other criteria: cover letter, portfolio, selection interview, psychometric test, etc.

What level? At what age?

Level 1

4-5 years old: preschool level (corresponding to kindergarten)

Level 2

6-16 years old: primary and secondary level (general and professional education)

Level 3

17-19 years old: college level (pre-university training, technical training)

Level 4

university level (undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate)

The teaching network

Some useful links:

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Is school a priority for you? When you set foot in a new country, many questions about schooling may arise. To help you find a school that suits your child’s needs, here is an opportunity to take a quick look at schools, their curriculum, equivalencies and differences…


From primary school onwards, parents can choose to enroll their child in the public (free) or private (paying) system. The average cost to send your child to a private school is between $6,000 and $12,000 per year. Most accredited private schools are partially funded by the government. Student selection is based on both academic achievement and entrance exam results.

Special Education Policy (public)

Quebec schools are adapted to all students while respecting their differences.

“The special education policy is part of the changes proposed by the educational renewal. It aims to help students with disabilities or with adjustment or learning difficulties to succeed in terms of instruction, socialization and qualification” (Ministry of Education).


In addition to public or private schools, parents can enroll their child in private schools that apply the programs and teaching methods of the French Ministry of Education and are recognized by the Quebec Ministry of Education. The teaching is the French curriculum, adapted to the Quebec context, and leads to the baccalaureate.

In Montreal, the French schools are Collège Stanislas and Collège International Marie de France, which offer education from kindergarten to high school.

Comparative table of Quebec and French curricula (Collège Stanislas – Montréal) :

Intensive English as a Second Language

Several elementary schools in the CSSDM offer Intensive English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction to students in Cycle Three (Grade 5 or 6). Certain periods of the day are devoted to English during which the student reads, writes and speaks English.


Depending on the type of school chosen, the registration process will be different.


Regular public schools are subject to the school map, which means that your address will dictate which school your child will attend. You must therefore have proof of residence. If the school is full, you will be redirected to another school as close as possible..

The registration protocol differs from one school service center to another. To find out how to proceed, you must first consult the website or call the center in your area. Usually you must go online to fill out a form and make an appointment with your child.

You will need to have these original documents on hand:

  • Child’s birth certificate including parents’ full names
  • Immigration documents: Parent’s work permit, study permit, residence permit, CAQ….
  • Passports of the whole family
  • 2 proofs of residence.

In some cases, registration can be done directly at the school, which then transfers the file to the school board. Some schools may also require an interview or an evaluation of French language skills.


A student may have access to English-language education in two types of situations: Children who are permanently established in Quebec and those who are temporarily in Quebec.


May be eligible to attend English school on a permanent basis if one of the following situations applies:

  • A child who has received the major part of his or her primary or secondary education in Canada in English and one of his or her parents is a Canadian citizen.
  • A child who has one Canadian parent and whose sibling received the major part of his or her elementary or secondary education in Canada in English.
  • A child who has a Canadian parent who has received the major part of his or her primary or secondary education in English in Canada.
  • A child who has severe learning difficulties according to the Charter of the French Language and who would benefit from studying in English.

A temporary authorization to study in English may be granted to:

  • A child who is a dependent of a person who is temporarily staying in Quebec
  • A child whose parent is temporarily assigned to Quebec as a civil servant of a foreign country or an international organization.
  • A child whose parent is a member of the Canadian Forces and is temporarily posted to Quebec.

This temporary authorization will not be granted and can even be withdrawn when:

  • one of the parents obtains refugee status.
  • one of the parents obtains the CSQ Quebec selection certificate and settles permanently.

The request for authorization must be made to the English school board. Supporting documents must be completed. A written response will be sent within 10 days.


Private schools are not subject to the map, however transportation to and from school will be your responsibility. Some schools offer bus transportation for a fee.

Registration for private schools begins in October of the previous year. Students are admitted on the basis of academic records and tests. Some schools are very popular and only the best students are admitted.

It is always possible to apply for admission by distance learning, before your arrival and during the school year.


Some schools offer special programs such as alternative education, international education, giftedness, science enrichment, music and art. In addition to these special programs, the teaching methods must follow the objectives of the Ministry of Education.

The mission of public alternative schools is to provide students with an educational environment based on humanistic values of sharing and cooperation and the expression of autonomy and individuality. The child can learn at his or her own pace and decide on the exercises to achieve his or her goals.

Specialized schools often contain a specialized component in art, sports, English immersion, etc. The International School of Montreal defines its pedagogical approach by its socio-constructivist philosophy and second language learning.

The Educational Project

“Educational institutions define, in their educational project, the orientations, objectives and targets to be achieved in order to support educational success. This educational project is produced in accordance with the commitment plan of their school service center (CSS) or their English school board or special status school board (CS) as well as with the strategic plan of the Ministry and must include” (Quebec Ministry of Education).

Practical advice

Beyond the programs and educational projects, when choosing a school, it is also good to consider practical aspects of daily life, such as travel time between home, school and work, whether or not school transportation is available, the availability of a cafeteria that may be preferred to the preparation of box lunches, daycare hours or the availability of after-school activities…

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A vast choice of courses, teaching excellence, a multitude of research centers, a dynamic campus and student life… the choice of Montreal to study is often an obvious one for those who want to study in a North American university. The largest French-speaking city in America deserves its reputation as a magnet for international students and professors.


There are 18 universities recognized by the Quebec government. The vast majority of Quebec universities offer programs in all disciplines.

Some are specialized in one field of study, such as:

École de technologie supérieure (ETS)

École des hautes études commerciales (HEC)

École nationale d’administration publique (ENAP)

École Polytechnique de Montréal

The (famous) MBA (Master in Business Administration)

Canadian universities offer some of the best Master in Business Administration (MBA) programs in North America and the world. With an MBA, you gain skills and knowledge in a variety of fields (Banking and Finance – Entrepreneurship – International Business – Government) and an internationally recognized degree in business. Canadian MBA programs are among the best in the world.

HEC Montréal is ranked 2nd among the best business schools in Canada for its MBA program, according to the 2021-2022 rankings of American magazine Bloomberg Businessweek.


University studies are divided into 3 cycles. The first cycle leads to the “Baccalauréat” (the equivalent of a licence in France) or to a Certificate (a one-year course). The second cycle leads to the Master’s degree and the “Diplôme d’Études Supérieures Spécialisées” (DESS). The third cycle leads to the Doctorate.

The academic year consists of 3 sessions, usually 15 weeks in length:

  • Fall: September to December
  • Winter: January to April
  • Summer: May to August

Most courses are equivalent to 3 credits, some may be equivalent to 1, 2 or 4 credits. One credit represents approximately 45 hours of work per session. Expected work may take the form of individual study, class attendance, laboratory, workshop or internship.

To be considered a full-time student at the undergraduate level, a semester must include at least 12 credits, the equivalent of 4 courses. At the graduate level, a semester will generally be at least 9 credits.

To learn more about studying at a university: choosing a program, admission requirements, list of universities in Quebec, visit the Quebec government’s website on its page Studying at university.

Equivalence of diplomas

Baccalauréat / DEC

The Franco-Quebec framework agreement on the recognition of diplomas and the validation of studies signed on February 20, 1996 specifies in article 2 that for the signatory institutions: “The French baccalaureate and the Quebec college diploma (DEC) are mutually recognized as giving access to the first cycle of higher education in Quebec and in France, in compliance with the admission conditions specific to each country”.

For other diplomas

Applications for recognition of other diplomas are processed by each Québec institution of higher education and may take into account your training, the number of years of study and your home institution. Not all degrees for regulated professions are recognized in Quebec. You may have to go back to school to obtain the degree recognized in Quebec.

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If you plan to study in Quebec for more than six months, a study permit is required to enroll in a university in order to obtain a Quebec degree. To study in the Province of Quebec – and obtain student status – you will need two documents: the “Certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ)” and the study permit approval letter.

Here is a step-by-step overview of the process.

You have chosen a program of study in an educational institution? The first step is to submit an application for temporary selection for studies to the Ministère de l'Immigration, de la Diversité et de l'Inclusion du Québec (MIFI).

When you are admitted to a program of study, you will receive a letter of acceptance from the educational institution where you wish to study.

Take the steps to obtain a Certificat d'acceptation du Québec (CAQ) from the Ministère de l'Immigration, de la Diversité et de l'Inclusion du Québec (MIFI). Since January 26, 2021, this application is made online, from the Arrima portal of the MIFI.

Steps to obtain a Certificat d'acceptation du Québec (CAQ)

Upon receipt of your CAQ, you can apply for a Study Permit from the Canadian immigration authorities (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

Steps to apply for a Study Permit

Apply for a Study Permit in Canada

The costs associated with medical and hospitalization expenses in Canada, compared to your usual health care system, make it an essential precaution to avoid surprises.


Good to know: you will have to demonstrate your financial capacity to support yourself such as: tuition fees, living expenses for the duration of your stay and transportation costs (to and from your country). In 2021, an international student must have $13,134 CDN in their bank account for a full year of study.

The good news is that you are allowed to work off-campus part-time (20 hours per week) during study sessions and full-time during school breaks. This is a great way to finance yourself, gain work experience or start your career.

Thanks to the agreement between Quebec and France, French students are exempted from paying tuition fees at the Cégep and benefit from the university tuition rate applicable to Quebecers, and will not have to pay the additional tuition fees required of international students.

With a study permit in Quebec, it is possible to work part-time during the school year and full-time during the vacations.

In addition, many services offer discounts to students with the presentation of a student card.

Financing your studies

You will probably need to budget for studying in Quebec or Canada..

As a student, you may be able to count on scholarships or benefit from scholarship programs for international students.

See the list (in French): The 20 best scholarships in Canada in 2022 – All the information you need to know!

Student housing in Quebec

L’iThe growing interest in studying in Montreal is reflected in the number of students looking for housing. Are the university residences full? We have the eye to help you find housing in the area of your university.

Contact us

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When discovering a new educational system, we understand perfectly that you have many questions. When we help you find your ideal home, as relocation specialists, HP & Associés will accompany you in your project with a global vision and you will benefit from the experience of our partners to help you make the right choices for your children’s schooling, or simply to complete your studies in Montreal.

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