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Canada is a massive North American country made up of ten provinces and three expansive territories. Situated just to the north of the United States, it stretches from the Atlantic Ocean in the east, to the Pacific Ocean in the west and to the cold waters of the Arctic Ocean in the north. Canada is the second largest city in the world by geography, with a total land area of just over 3.8 million square miles, and the border it shares with the United States is by far the lengthiest land border in the world.
Canada has a total population of nearly 33.5 million and is very culturally and ethnically diverse. Like many countries in the Americas, Canada experienced mass waves of European immigration in the 19th and 20th centuries, and because of that, current census data shows that while ethnic Canadians account for 32 percent of the total population, the remainder are English (21%), French (16%), Scottish (15%), Irish (14%), German (10%), Italian (4.5%), Chinese and Ukrainian (4%), and Dutch (3%). There are two official languages in Canada, English and French, spoken as the first language by 60% and 23% of the population respectively. Nearly 80% of Canadians self-identify as being Christian, particularly Roman Catholic, Anglican, and other Protestant religions.
Canada can best be described as a melting pot of cultures—a multicultural and progressive society drawing from a broad range of nationalities. Each year there are a number of cultural festivals in the country, where people of similar heritage can gather to share traditional food, drink, music and dance from their country of origin. Cultural identity and pride is particularly high in Quebec, Canada’s French-speaking province and home to the major city of Montreal—the largest French-speaking city in the world after Paris.
Education in Canada
Education in Canada is highly valued and a major focus of the Canadian government. While the system of education is very similar to that of the United States, there is one key difference: in the United States, education is primarily the function of the national government, whereas in Canada, the majority of power, including the ability to form and implement policy, is given to the 10 individual provinces. Because of this, slight variations exist in the education systems of the individual provinces. For example, while all provinces require children to attend school from age 6 to 16, in the provinces of Ontario, New Brunswick and Manitoba, children are mandated to attend school until age 18.
Much like in other developed countries, the education system in Canada consists of three distinct levels: primary school, secondary school and higher education. Primary school commences at age 6 in the 1st grade (although an optional pre-primary level called kindergarten is available for 5-year old students) and continues through grade 8. Students are instructed in a very broad curriculum, consisting of mathematics, science, social studies, language (English or French depending on the province), geography, history, music, art and physical education.
Secondary schools in Canada typically house students ages 14-18 in grades 9-12. The initial two years consist of a purely academic track, but beginning in grade 11 students can choose to continue on this largely college-preparatory track or opt for a more vocational approach—a combination of basic general education mixed with instruction and occupational training in a number of specific career fields.
The higher education system in Canada is among the best in the world, with countless opportunities for students at all levels. Like in the U.S., the system includes universities, colleges and junior or community colleges. Universities and colleges in Canada offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in almost every major academic subject, leading to Bachelor and Master’s Degrees respectively. Post-graduate or Doctorate-level degrees are offered only by the universities, as these institutions are equipped with the facilities and have the resources to offer these mostly research-based opportunities. While community colleges in Canada do offer academic programs leading to Associate degrees, most of their focus is in the vocational sector, helping students earn certificates in anything from automotive repair to hotel services.
Due to its excellent system of education at each level, the adult literacy rate in Canada is 99%--one of the highest in the world.