The education system is made up of several levels: preschool, elementary and secondary school, college, university and post-doctoral studies.

The public system is entirely secular. In most educational institutions, classes are mixed. At the preschool, elementary and secondary levels, instruction is given in French, except in the case of students eligible for instruction in English. At the college and university levels, instruction may be given in French or English, depending on the institution’s language of operation.

There are also government schools and private educational institutions authorized by the Québec government that offer recognized programs of study.

Preschool, elementary and secondary education

Preschool education, also called kindergarten, is not compulsory. Children can enter kindergarten at 4 or 5 years of age.

Elementary education is spread over six years. Children are subject to compulsory school attendance from the first day of the school year following their sixth birthday.

At the secondary level, compulsory school attendance continues until the last day of the school calendar in the school year in which a child reaches the age of 16, or when they obtain a diploma issued by the Minister of Education.

General education

This level of education is spread over five years and leads to the awarding of a Secondary School Diploma (SSD).

Adult general education

Adult general education is intended for individuals who are no longer subject to compulsory school attendance (16 years and older by June 30 preceding the start of the school year). It leads to the awarding of a Secondary School Diploma or a Training Certificate for a Semiskilled Trade.

For more information, visit the adult general education page This hyperlink will open in a new window. of the Ministère de l’Éducation website.

Vocational training

Vocational training allows individuals to quickly acquire the skills needed to practise a specialized trade. Consider what it has to offer:

  • 181 vocational training centres
  • 144 programs in 21 sectors
  • practicums
  • a high job-placement rate

Vocational training programs are designed in collaboration with job market and education community stakeholders. With a view to developing the real-life skills used in business and industry, programs are adapted by educational institutions to the needs of regional economic activity.

To access vocational training, students must have passed Secondary III or IV (9th or 10th year of schooling) or higher, depending on the admission requirements of the chosen program. All programs lead to an official diploma or certificate:

  • Diploma of Vocational Studies (DVS)
  • Attestation of Vocational Studies (AVS)
  • Skills Training Certificate (STC)

For more information, visit the vocational training page of the Québec métiers d’avenir website This hyperlink will open in a new window. or the vocational training program directory on the Inforoute website This hyperlink will open in a new window..

Higher education

Higher education consists of college, university and post-doctoral studies.

College studies

College studies are one of the unique features of the Québec education system.

Pre-university training bridges the gap between secondary and university studies. It leads to a Diploma of College Studies (DCS) and lasts two years.

Technical training at the college level provides access to the job market or to university, so long as the university prerequisites are met. This training leads to a Diploma of College Studies (DCS) in a specific field and generally lasts three years.

Short-term college studies are intended for adults who have work experience or previously completed a training program. It leads to an Attestation of College Studies (ACS) and lasts between 6 and 18 months.

Visit the Studying at CEGEP page to learn more.

University studies

University studies are divided into three cycles and lead to the following degrees:

  • Bachelor’s (Cycle One), lasting three or four years, depending on the field
  • Master’s (Cycle Two), lasting one or two years
  • Ph.D. (Cycle Three), lasting three or more years

Most universities also offer short programs (certificate, diploma of specialized graduate studies, etc.) of varying length. Post-doctoral studies after university training are another possibility.

Universities have faculties in different fields as well as specialized schools, such as business and engineering schools.

Visit the Studying at university page to learn more.