One provincial variation in the Canadian education system is that of language. Most of the nation speaks English as a first language but, in some provinces, French is the preferred language.
Still others, the children of the First Nations, rely on the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada for their educations. In these schools, attended by children of indigenous or aboriginal heritage, the preferred spoken language may be the dialect of the local people, with educational emphasis on the English language, which is expected to offer more opportunities for students when they are older and in the work force. The language preference in these schools is dictated more by the locally predominant language than by federal or provincial policy.
The Constitution Act of 1982 made it possible for both English and French to be taught at any school within the Canadian education system so long as the local population is large enough to support the desire for both languages. Except in Ontario and New Brunswick, English is the primary language but French, as a second language, is available where the need and interest exist.
In Quebec, Ontario, attendance at French-speaking schools is mandatory throughout the public education system, from first grade through the 12th. There are provisions made for children to go to schools in Quebec where English is the primary language but, to attend these schools, each child must have one parent who him- or herself attended an English-based school somewhere within the Canadian education system.
In recent years, the Canadian public school system has opened its doors to foreign students, many of whom speak different languages still as their first. These students become enrolled in a fast-track educational program that qualifies them for permanent residency as Canadians, especially when their education is coupled with relevant work experience within the country.
Most Canadian students understand the value of being fluent in more language than one and embrace the opportunity to develop proficiency in both English and French. This multilingual education is particularly attractive for students who want to build careers in fields that span the nations, such as jobs in the media, arts, and entertainment industries.