Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of education systems does Canada have?

Canada’s public education system is free and open to all children in Canada.

Who is responsible for the public education system?

The public education system is the responsibility of each province and territory; there is no central authority.

Who manages the public education system?

Each province and territory has a department/ministry of education that manages the school system for that province or territory.

Who funds the public education system?

Public schools get more than 90% of their funding from the government through local and provincial/territorial taxation.   The provincial/territorial government provides funding directly to the schools.

What is the legislation around the public school system?

Each province and territory has the exclusive right to make laws related to education under the Canadian Constitution Act of 1867.  These separate education acts (legislation) outline regulations, guidelines and policies for the public school system within the province or territory.

How is the public education system organized?

Provinces typically organize their school systems around geographic districts.

What is the structure of the public school system?

Primary and secondary education in Canada is often referred to as K-12; a short form for the school grades.  These grades are kindergarten (sometimes called pre-school/pre-elementary) and the 1st through the 12th grade (junior & senior high school).

Is there a national curriculum?

No, Canada not does have a national curriculum; rather the provincial governments are responsible for setting the curriculum for their schools and each province has its own ministry-established common curriculum.


Who manages the public school system in Nova Scotia?

The public schools in Nova Scotia are managed by the provincial department of education called Education and Early Childhood Development (EECD).


What does Nova Scotia use to govern the administration of the public schools?

Nova Scotia uses the Education Reform Act (effective April 1, 2018) to govern most of the public schools; the Education (CSAP) Act is used to govern the administration of the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial.


Does Nova Scotia have a pre-primary program?

Free, pre-primary education for four-year-olds will be available across the province by 2020.

How many regional centres are there in Nova Scotia? Do they each have a website?

There are 7 regional centres and one provincial francophone school board.  Yes each one has a website with information for students, families and teachers.

Who are the three distinct groups that are represented in each regional centre?

  1. Mi’kmaq
  2. Acadians
  3. African Nova Scotians


What is the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU)?

The NSTU represents more than 10,000 public school teachers, teachers who work for the Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority and Community College faculty and professional support staff.  The NSTU serves as the primary advocate of its members as well as to promote and advance the teaching profession and quality public education.

Does Nova Scotia have private schools?

Yes, Nova Scotia has more than 20 private/independent schools; many of which are in Halifax.


Are there alternatives to the public education system in Nova Scotia?

Yes, in the Education Reform Act it states that any parent has the right to home school their child.


At what age do children start school in Nova Scotia?

To enter primary school, children must be five years old on or before December 31st of the calendar year in which they are being enrolled.  Families of children turning five on or before December 31 do not have to enroll their child in grade primary if they believe their child is not ready to begin formal education. Families can choose to wait an additional year.

Who oversees the day-to-day running of each school?

School principals and vice-principals plan, organize, direct, control and evaluate the activities of teachers and other staff of an elementary or secondary school.

Is there any difference between elementary and secondary school teachers?

Elementary school teachers teach basic subjects such as reading, writing and arithmetic or specialized subjects such as English or French as a second language in elementary schools.

Secondary school teachers prepare and teach academic, technical, vocational or specialized subjects at secondary schools.  Secondary school teachers who are heads of departments are included in this group.  Secondary teachers may specialize in areas such as mathematics, English, French, special education, or second language instruction.  Secondary school teachers of vocational and trades subjects may specialize in areas such as auto mechanics.

What positions are considered school support teachers?

  • English as an additional Language (EAL) Teacher
  • Resource Teacher
  • Substitute Teacher

What are some non-teaching positions in the school?

  • Education Program Assistant
  • Library Support Specialist
  • YMCA Settlement Staff
  • Speech Language Pathologist/School Psychologist/Social Worker
  • Student Support Worker

How many days are in the school year in Nova Scotia?

There are 195 school days.


How big are the classes in Nova Scotia?

Nova Scotia has a Class Size Guidelines Policy that came into effect as of 2017-2018 school year.

Visit here to see the class sizes.

Does Nova Scotia have an attendance policy?

Yes, on October 1, 2017 a new student attendance and engagement policy took effect in Nova Scotia to address the growing concern of student absenteeism.

What is the general approach to education in Nova Scotia?

It is student-centred which focuses on the student’s unique needs, abilities, interests and learning styles.

What is the Learning Outcomes Framework?

The learning outcomes framework is made up of a number of curriculum outcomes statements describing what knowledge, skills and attitudes students are expected to show as a result of their cumulative learning experiences in the primary-graduation path.


Is French taught in the public school system in Nova Scotia?

Yes, there are French First Language programs and French Second Language programs.


What if a student stops school before they graduate?

Nova Scotia School of Adult Learning (NSSAL) provides several options around the province for adults to get their high school completion or equivalency.


Are there provincial assessments and examinations in Nova Scotia?

The Program of Learning Assessment for Nova Scotia (PLANS) includes the following provincial assessments and examinations:

  • Reading and Writing in Grade 3
  • Mathematics in Grade 4
  • Reading, Writing and Mathematics in Grade 8
  • Nova Scotia examinations in Mathematics 10, Mathematics at Work 10 and English 10


Do teachers give report cards to students in Nova Scotia?

Yes, students in grades 1-9 receive at least three report cards each school year.  Students in grades 10-12 receive four report cards each school year.

How are parents involved in the public school system in Nova Scotia?

One example is the Parent Teacher Association/Organization (PTA/O).  This organization is a partnership between parents and educators who work to increase student learning and make the lives of the students better within the school.  It is also a place for parents to get knowledge and voice their opinions about what is happening in their school.

How do colleagues address one another in a Canadian workplace?

It is common to address colleagues by their first names, even managers and supervisors – use both first and last names when introducing someone however.


Is it important to arrive on time in a Canadian workplace?

Yes, it is very important and in fact you should arrive 10-15 minutes early for work, meetings, interviews, etc.


What are “unwritten rules” in a Canadian workplace?

Unwritten rules are not documented under any policies or procedures.  They are generally learned by observing others and asking.  For example: In general work email and phone lines are intended for work purposes.  In most companies it is best to avoid using them for personal reasons, except for emergencies.

In what ways are teachers expected to use their communication skills?

  • Teaching individuals and groups
  • Communicating caring
  • Communicating to familes
  • Interacting with colleagues and supervisors

What does “equity” mean in the school environment?

Equity means there should be no discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, religion, gender, sexual orientation, exceptionalities and family status.

What is “bullying” in school?

Bullying is taken very seriously in school.  Bullying happens when a student or group of students focus on an individual again and again over time, using physical or psychological aggression to hurt the victim.  This includes use of e-mail or internet to harass and/or intimidate others.  Every reasonable effort is made to protect students from threats of violence or physical harm.

Who is responsible for teacher certification in Nova Scotia?

The Office of Teacher Certification with the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development is responsible for processing teacher certification applications.


What is the most common type of teacher certification that ELTs get in Nova Scotia?

A Bridging Teacher’s Certificate, This may be given by the Registrar to a person who:

  • has not previously been given a teacher’s certificate by the Minister
  • does not satisfy the requirements for an ITC
  • holds a valid teacher’s certificate given by an authority in another district on the condition that the person has satisfied the academic and professional studies requirements outlined by that district
  • has completed a minimum of 4 years of undergraduate education (equivalent to 120 Canadian credit hours) including an approved Bachelor’s degree from a recognized university; an approved program of professional studies, completed in another district consisting of a minimum of 30 credit hours of course work including a practicum


How do I apply for teacher certification in Nova Scotia?

Visit here for the application package.

How long does it take once I apply for teacher certification?

Generally it takes approximately 6 weeks for the processing of the application once all the required documents have been received.


What level of English or French do I need to teach in Nova Scotia?

Teachers in Nova Scotia are expected to be fluent in English or French.


What are teaching standards?

Teaching standards provide a common framework that describes what teachers should know and be able to do, from initial certification and throughout all stages of their careers, as they support student learning.


Why is professional development/learning important for teachers in Nova Scotia?

Professional learning is important for teachers to keep current with pedagogical practices, to develop their skill in using these practices and to expand their existing content background in subject areas that they teach.  In Nova Scotia, all permanent or probationary teachers are required to complete 100 contact hours of professional development every five years.

What is labour market information?

Labour market information can help you make a good decision when you want to change jobs or move to a new place.  It can help you find out what the labour market is like for that job or that city.

What is an informational interview?

An informational interview is not a job interview.  It is an informal meeting arranged by you with someone who may be in a position to help you get a job in the future, either directly or indirectly.

What are the job requirements for primary & elementary school teachers?

The job requirements are:

  • A bachelor's degree in education is required.
  • A bachelor's degree in child development may be required.
  • Additional training is required to specialize in special education or second language instruction.
  • A provincial teaching certificate is required. Additional certification is required to teach English or French as a second language.
  • Membership in a provincial or territorial teachers' association or federation is usually required.


How can I become a substitute teacher for the Halifax Regional Education Office?

Visit here for details on registering as a substitute.

What is the difference between term and permanent teaching positions?

Term positions have a specific start and end date and typically happen when the regular classroom teacher is not receiving pay from the school (i.e. unpaid sick leave, deferred leave, parental leave in excess of 40 days).  Permanent teaching positions happen as a result of attrition - resignation, retirement, death, a newly created position or permanent assignment to another school.

What positions are available in the EXCEL program in the Halifax Regional Centre?

There are two different positions available: Group Leader and Program Team Leader.


What are some job search sites in Nova Scotia?

What are some steps to securing a job in Nova Scotia?

  1. Preparing a professional portfolio
  2. Writing an effective cover letter
  3. Preparing a focused resume
  4. Practising interview skills

What are alternative careers?

Alternative careers provide IETs with the opportunity to find meaningful occupations related to the regulated teaching profession.  These alternative options allow IETs to use their skills and experience while pursuing licensure in the teaching profession or to pursue a new career path.

Where can I read on current teaching trends in Canada?

Canadian Teacher Magazine keeps Canadian teachers aware of current trends in their field by offering informative articles on instructional strategies and methodology, classroom management, professional and personal development and national and international issues.  Find links to this magazine and others in See Section 7.

How can I prepare for teaching in NS?

Review Teach in Nova Scotia: An Orientation for Internationally Educated Teachers.  Also use the checklist in Section 7.