- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Canada Guide (PDF)
New arrivals will be pleased to know the standard of education in Canada is high, and the assortment of schooling options impressive. Canada prides itself on its transparent systems and education is no exception.
Concerned parents moving to this geographically large country with their little ones will want to get a head start and begin sifting through the resources that can help them make an informed decision. The Fraser Institute annually issues both public and private schools in each province their own report card, measuring and comparing schools' academic performances.
Parents should note that Canada has no nationalised system of education, and instead grants the responsibility of execution and assessment to the thirteen individual provinces and territories. As a result, the systems in each region will be largely similar, but they won't be identical. There are varying differences in curriculum, language, methods of evaluation and accountability policies. The compulsory education age range is also controlled by the individual jurisdictions and may vary, though most demand attendance between the ages of six and 16.
Once expats have decided in which province or territory they'd like to make their home, they'll need to be more pointed in their research and consider whether a public or a private school will best suit the particular needs of their child. Both have their pros and cons, but cost and curriculum are often the factors that carry the most weight in the decision-making process.
Public schools in Canada
Public schools in Canada are subject to the steady hand of each respective province or territory. It follows that curricula are an accurate reflection of that area's population, corresponding with the geography, language, history and culture of the surrounding space.
For example, as the province of Quebec claims a predominately French-speaking population, the primary language of education is French. New Brunswick follows a bilingual language policy, while the other provinces are English.
While some public schools may also offer International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP) curricula, this is not the norm.
Expat students with a residence permit can attend Canadian public schools for free, but those without will need to pay the tuition fee appointed by their province/territory.
As in most countries, the standard of public schools varies from one to the next; some boasting exceptional reputations and others considered best avoided. Expats can consult each institution's report card for a better idea of its performance, and make a point to chat to locals or fellow expats about options. As students attend Canadian public schools based on catchment zones, parents may also want to pick their residential neighbourhood based on the school that corresponds with the area.
Private and international schools in Canada
Though the majority of Canadian citizens utilise the free public education system, expats who can afford it may also want to consider private schools for their children, including private and international schools.
These institutions are primarily funded by student tuition and private donors and, as in many countries, it's assumed they boast better facilities, a more diverse and comprehensive range of extra-curricular activities, smaller class sizes and an elevated standard of education.
Each school can establish its own curriculum, some claiming different language affiliations, teaching styles and religious value systems. This point may be important to those expats who'd prefer their children continue learning in their home language, home curriculum or according to a distinct educational philosophy.
However, such liberties are not without a price tag. Private schools in Canada are far from free, with the range of tuition costs being considerable.
Special-needs education in Canada
As is the case with most education-related matters in Canada, each province is largely responsible for how they handle students whose behavioural, communicational, intellectual or physical needs that cannot be met by the standard educational system. Overall, inclusivity of such students is a common goal throughout the country. The government abides by the principle that children with such needs should be kept in mainstream schools as far as possible, with support being offered in the form of individualised assistance and special arrangements or concessions. For those with more severe abilities that need more intensive support, there are special schools available.
Tutors in Canada
Throughout Canada, tutors are widely used, whether for exam preparation or extra help with a particular subject such as maths or science. Expat families may find even more ways to make use of tutors as they can assist with bridging the gap between a child's previous schooling abroad and current education in Canada, especially where a completely new curriculum is being followed. There are also tutors specialising in language who can help expat children develop their English skills, or maintain fluency in their mother tongue.
►For more information on tuition fees and other expenses, see Cost of Living in Canada
Are you an expat living in Canada?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Canada. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
Cigna Global can tailor an international health insurance plan to perfectly fit the needs of you and your family. With 86 million customers in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.