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The school system in Toronto operates at a high standard, and is even able to accommodate expat children who don’t speak either of the primary languages, English or French.
Toronto has an extensive network of public schools that operates alongside a robust assortment of private schools.
Permanent residents and expats with work permits can enrol their children in public schools for free. Expats not in these categories can send their children to public school but will have to obtain a study permit for their children and pay schools fees, which can end up being equal to some of the cheaper private schools.
Public schools in Toronto
Public schools in Toronto take their curricular mandate from the Ontario Ministry of Education. Generally, the standard of education is high. But like anywhere in the world, certain schools seem to perform better than others. In some cases, though, the best public schools are thought to be better than the most expensive private schools.
In Toronto, children can register at their neighbourhood school, or they can apply to a school that’s not within their residential area. Note that preference will be given to those in the associated geographic catchment areas.
Parents can check how well students from particular schools have performed by consulting rankings published by the Fraser Institute. Some parents may want to first pinpoint a desired school for their child, and then base their house hunt on this fact.
Private and international schools in Toronto
Private schools in Toronto are a different matter entirely. While there are scholarships for gifted students, private schools are expensive, with choice international schools and boarding schools levying even higher fees.
That said, as is the assumption in most global destinations, these schools are thought to boast better infrastructure, state-of-the-art facilities and a larger selection of extra-curricular activities.
Some private schools in Toronto are faith-based and a religious emphasis is integrated into the curriculum. These tend to be cheaper than other private schools.
There are specialised private schools that follow a foreign curriculum, such as that of the US, the UK and the International Baccalaureate. Some international schools teach in a language other than English, such as French. These curricula tend to be easily transferable worldwide, so expats who only plan to be in Toronto on a temporary stay may want to consider this option for their children.
Special-needs education in Toronto
The state of Ontario promises inclusion and equality for children with behavioural, communicational, intellectual or physical needs that cannot be met by the standard educational system. Such students are officially identified as 'exceptional' via assessments by the Identification, Placement, and Review Committee. School boards are responsible for drawing up an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for each exceptional student which details the interventions being taken. These are regularly reviewed to ensure the student's needs are being met.
Tutors in Toronto
Tutors are popular in Toronto and are often hired leading up to major exam periods. They are also ideal for children who struggle with a particular subject, such as maths or science. In the case of expat families, tutors can be useful in 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.
Some of the top tutoring companies in Toronto include Tutor Bright and Teacher On Call.
►For some of the foreign-curriculum options available in the city, see International Schools in Toronto
Are you an expat living in Toronto?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Toronto. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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