Canada and the United States have plenty in common – a shared border, a common language, a deep love for Harry and Meghan – so it was somewhat surprising for us to discover that the U.S. and Canadian school systems actually diverge in some pretty significant ways. Read on to discover some of the surprising differences between education south and north of the border.
Surprising differences between Canadian and American schools
Start TimesWake up, young Americans! Middle and high schools in the States start far earlier than their Canadian counterparts, at the bleary-eyed average start time of 8:03am. In contrast, a recent McGill study of 360+ Canadian schools revealed an average start time of 8:43am – a boon for growing bodies that need adequate sleep to function and learn optimally.Shutterstock
Private SchoolsWhile the two-tier public/private school system is firmly in place on both sides of the border, Americans seem to favour the private system a bit more than us northerners. The evidence: in Canada, 6.8% of K-12 children attend private schools – that’s 1 in 15 students – whereas in the States, private schools enroll about 10% of the nation’s kids.Shutterstock
THE CHARTER SCHOOL MOVEMENTIn the U.S., charter schools – i.e., publicly-funded schools that operate independently from the public school system and are comparatively loosely regulated – are big news, with almost 7000 in operation. In Canada, only one province, Alberta, has a small, 13-school charter movement and the legislation to allow their operation.Shutterstock
CORPORAL PUNISHMENTIf you were as taken aback as we were by a Georgia charter school’s recent decision to reinstate paddling as a disciplinary measure, this fact might just blow your mind. Corporal punishment is actually legal in 19 states, including Arizona, Florida, Texas and Wyoming. North of the border, corporal punishment has been banned in every territory and province since 2004.Shutterstock
GUN VIOLENCEThis one won’t be shocking to many of you, but schools in Canada are far safer than those of our American neighbours. According to one recent analysis, since 2009 the U.S. has had 57 times as many school shootings as all other major industrialized nations combined. (Canada had two over the same time period.)Shutterstock
SECURITY GUARDSPerhaps also not surprising, given the stats about gun violence in the U.S.: the number of armed security guards in American schools has climbed steadily for the past decade. Canadian schools, on the other hand, tend to use less heavy-handed measures to keep kids safe (we loved this story about Canada’s largest school board voting out armed police officers in schools).Shutterstock
FEDERAL LEADERSHIPTake me to your (education) leader! This might prove tricky in Canada, where the federal government takes a mostly hands-off approach to publicly-funded schools and has no national governing body for education. In contrast, Americans have the Federal Department of Education, currently led by Education Secretary Betsy deVos (who’s been the news lately for all the wrong reasons).Getty Images
CURRICULUMReading, writing and ‘rithmetic are essential everywhere, but in Canada and the U.S., provinces and states set their own curriculum, and regional school boards adapt the curriculum and allocate funds as they see fit. In the U.S., the feds have also developed the Common Core, a set of standards outlining knowledge and skills that American students should have at each grade level. (We actually think this is a pretty great idea, so score one for the USA.)Shutterstock
THE SATSHey, parents who went to Canadian universities – remember those stressful months of SAT test prep before senior year? Of course you don’t, because Canada has no standardized test requirements for applying to post-secondary institutions. In contrast, most American colleges require the submission of SAT scores along with GPA, which has spawned a lucrative and growing test prep market.
INTERNATIONAL RANKINGSNot to brag or anything, but we’re pretty pleased with Canada’s performance on international literacy, math and science tests. Case in point: on the most recent Programme for International Assessment (PISA) tests administered by the OECD, Canada ranked 4th overall globally among OECD countries - well above the U.S., who were way back at 31st. Game, set and (academic) match: the Great White North.Shutterstock