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Expat parents should note that the language of instruction at most Montreal schools is French. The majority of the population in Montreal speaks French as a first language, and it is the official language of business. While a language barrier can be difficult for new arrivals, support is provided to children whose first language is not French.
Children start school at the age of five and finish when they are 17. High school in Montreal only goes up to grade 11, instead of up to grade 12 as is the case in the general education system of Canada. For this reason, students who wish to continue to university must first complete another two years at a post-secondary college.
Public schools in Montreal
Children in Montreal start going to school at five years old in a maternelle. Grade 1 to 6 is école primaire and école secondaire is from grade 7 to 11. Students then move on to post-secondary college for grades 12 and 13 if they want to continue to university.
Unless expat children are very young or have a good grasp of the French language, public school is not the best option for them.
Language in schools in Montreal
All children in Quebec are encouraged to attend French-language public schools. However, there are also English-language public schools for children who have already received some of their education in English.
Families must apply for a child to receive instruction in English. Successful applicants will receive a Déclaration d’admissibilité à l’enseignement en Anglais (declaration of eligibility for instruction in English).
Eligible families can apply through the school board or the private schools where they plan on enrolling. Applications are normally processed within 10 working days. We advise parents and guardians to check their eligibility and read up on the application procedure on the official Quebec Ministère de l'Éducation website.
In French-language schools, English is taught as a second language and English-immersion programmes are also available. There are also fully bilingual schools in Quebec, where both English and French are taught as a first language. Many of the private schools in Montreal are also bilingual.
Private schools in Montreal
A large proportion of children in Montreal attend private schools. This is because the government subsidises certain private schools that meet its requirements. Most private schools are high schools, and many are affiliated with a certain religion.
Children who want to attend a private high school must pass an entrance exam and prove they have performed well throughout primary school.
Note that non-subsidised private schools in Montreal are expensive.
International schools in Montreal
International schools in Montreal are the most popular choice for non-Francophone expats. There are numerous international schools in the city, and different languages and curricula are catered for.
Tuition at international schools is notoriously expensive, and parents will need to budget for the fees.
Application requirements vary from one international school to the next, but are usually fairly extensive. Along with an application form, previous school records are generally required. Parents must also submit a copy of the applicant’s Déclaration d’admissibilité à l’enseignement en Anglais.
Special-needs education in Montreal
Inclusive education has increasingly been promoted over the years. Thanks to this, children with physical and learning disabilities, as well as social and behavioural maladjustments can enter mainstream schools, while receiving additional necessary support.
The English Montreal School Board (EMSB), one of five public school boards in the city, offers comprehensive services to support students with special education needs. Services include specialised classes, adjusted curricula and access to learning resources. EMSB also gives families access to professional evaluation to determine the needs of the child.
Expats can also find specialised schools and programmes for youth and adults with disabilities to gain an education.
Homeschooling in Montreal
Parents and guardians have the legal right to educate their children at home rather than attend a school. However, the law emphasises that the homeschooling must be appropriate, and there are several conditions that families looking to homeschool must meet.
Families must notify the Ministère de l'Éducation and the school board of their plans for homeschooling on or before the first of July each year. There will be meetings and evaluations to track the student’s progress. Additionally, the content of the learning project must meet specified standards.
As such, we strongly recommend that expat families who wish to homeschool their children do their research to follow the necessary procedures and figure out if this learning route suits them.
Tutors in Montreal
Finding a tutor in Montreal shouldn’t be a challenge for expats. Whether an expat’s child needs extra help in school or expats want to start learning and practising French, a tutor can be a great help.
Several companies and websites can help expats connect with certified tutors. These include companies such as Skooli, Superprof and FirstTutors: Canada.
Are you an expat living in Montreal?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Montreal. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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