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As education is a provincial matter, the length of study varies depending on the province, although the majority of public early childhood, elementary, and secondary education programs in Canada begin in kindergarten (age five typically by 31 December) and end after Grade 12 (age 17 by 31 December). After completion of a secondary school diploma, students may go on to post-secondary studies.

Exceptions to the aforementioned length of study include the province of Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec, as well as the Northwest Territories. As opposed to the other provinces, the Kindergarten programs in the Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec consists of two years, with the first year open to students age four by 31 December. Ontario established its Junior Kindergarten program in the early-1940s. In 2016, the Government of Nova Scotia announced an expansion of its Pre-Primary program to be made available throughout the province by 2020. Implementation of Junior Kindergarten began in the Northwest Territories during the 2017–18 school year, an expansion of an earlier pilot project in several smaller communities in the territory. In 2019, the Government of Quebec has announced the creation of kindergarten classes for four-year-olds in the province's elementary schools. The length of study at the secondary level also differs in Quebec, with the final grade of secondary schools in the province being Grade 11/Secondaire V.

Conversely, in Ontario, a student may choose to lengthen their period of study in a secondary school for an additional number of years, colloquially referred to as a victory lap. Until 2003, secondary education in Ontario formally included a fifth year, known as the Ontario Academic Credit (age 18 by 31 December). Although OAC was phased out in 2003, a study published in 2010 noted that the province was only partially successful in its efforts, with students opting to take an additional year still being a norm. In September 2013, the Government of Ontario introduced a 34-credit threshold (30 credits is required for the Ontario Secondary School Diploma), in an effort to limit the length of study for its secondary school students. A "resident pupil" of Ontario has the right to attend a public secondary school until they've received their 34th course credit, attended the school for seven years, or until they are age of 20 and have not been in a school in the last four years; after which, the secondary school reserves the right to refuse further admission to the student.

While the period of study in Canada begins as early as four years old, the age where a child's attendance becomes mandatory varies between the provinces and Canadian territories, ranging from ages five to seven. Children who turn five by 31 December are required to begin schooling in British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Yukon; although parents are able to apply for a deferment. In Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec, a child is required to attend school at the age of six. Manitoba and Saskatchewan are the only provinces where the minimum compulsory attendance age is seven. Attendance in school is compulsory up to the age of 16 in all provinces except Manitoba, New Brunswick, and Ontario, where attendance is compulsory until the student turns 18, or as soon as a high school diploma has been achieved.


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