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New to Canada: Understanding the Education System for Your Children.

Moving to a new country can be a challenging experience for anyone, but it can be incredibly overwhelming for parents concerned about their children's education.


I imagine that as a parent, you want to ensure that your child has access to a quality education that will prepare them for a successful future. You may have some questions if you are immigrating to Canada and are unfamiliar with the Canadian education system.


In this article, I will address the most important questions for parents immigrating to Canada and provide information on navigating the education system when their children are in elementary or high school.


I will also include additional information about Ontario, the province in which we live, and some details provided by three moms who recently arrived in Ontario and are using the education system for their children.


Table of contents




1. What is the educational system in Canada like?


The system is divided into elementary/primary school for the first eight grades of school (except Quebec, which has only six grades) and secondary or high school, which runs from grades 9 to 12 (except Quebec, which starts in grade 7 and ends in grade 11).


In Canada, children usually start elementary school at the age of five or six and finish high school at the age of 17 or 18. After finishing high school, students can go to college or university.


2. What documents must I bring when I move to Canada?


When you move to Canada, you must present certain documents to enroll your child in school. In consulting with the three moms I mentioned at the beginning, there were several documents they mentioned that I listed below.


*Note that these documents may vary, so always inquire about your situation with the school or board to which you will belong. Use this for reference only.


You must present certain documents to enroll your child in school.

These documents include the following:


  • Proof of your child's age: Passport or other identity documents such as a birth certificate.

  • Immunization record: Parents must provide proof that their children are up to date on their immunizations.

  • Proof of residency: This may include a rental agreement, utility bill or home/apartment insurance in the parents' name. It is used to confirm the address of the residence.

  • Academic transcripts: If the child has attended school before, parents should bring copies of their transcripts to help with the enrollment process.

  • Baptismal certificate: If the child will be attending a Catholic school.

  • Visitor's or study permit (student).

  • Tutor's status (study permit, work permit, etc.).


3. How can I find out which school my child should attend?


Each province in Canada has its education system, so it is essential to research your province's system to determine which school your child should attend.


The best way to find this information is to contact your local school board or district. They can provide you with information about the schools in your area, including which school your child should attend based on your address.


The three examples I know of in Ontario were assigned based on the area where they live, which means the closest school they have in their neighbourhood.


Your child will probably be assigned to a school near your home.

4. What if my child does not speak English or French?


Canada is a diverse country, and many schools offer programs for students who do not speak English or French as their first language. These programs are designed to help students learn the language and catch up academically with their peers.


In addition, every district has a welcome and levelling office; at least the parents I met were given appointments before school started and assigned an academic advisor for any questions they might have.


You can contact your local school board or district for more information about these programs and how to enroll your child.


5. How can I find out which level my child should attend?


The level your child will take will depend mainly on age. According to what the moms mentioned, their children were tested in math and reading the day they visited the academic advisor's office.


The level is assigned by age, but if it requires some levelling, your child may have some subjects in the level that corresponds to him/her and others in the previous level.


The level your child will take will depend mainly on age.

6. Are there resources to help me understand the Canadian education system?


There are several resources to help you navigate the Canadian education system.


The first place to start is the local school board or district where you plan to live. There they will be able to inform you about the education system in your province and answer your questions.


In addition, several websites provide information about the Canadian education system, such as the Canadian Education Association and the Ministry of Education in each province.



There are several resources to help you navigate the Canadian education system.

7. The Education system in Ontario


Since we live here and have contact with families who have come to this province, I would like to expand a bit on Ontario.


Ontario is home to Canada's most extensive education system and has several publicly-funded boards that provide education for students from kindergarten to grade 12. Each board has its characteristics, so parents must research the various available options.


8. Publicly-funded boards in Toronto and Greater Toronto Area (GTA)


Here are some specific details about the publicly-funded boards in Toronto and some cities of GTA:

  • Toronto District School Board (TDSB): The TDSB is the largest board in Canada, serving approximately 250,000 students in nearly 600 schools. More information can be found on this website.


  • Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB): The TCDSB serves approximately 84,000 students in 196 schools, providing a faith-based education to students from kindergarten to grade 12. More information can be found on this website.


Toronto has the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB).

  • Peel District School Board (PDSB): The PDSB serves approximately 156,000 students in over 250 schools in the Peel region, which includes Mississauga, Brampton, and Caledon. More information can be found on this website.


  • Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board (DPCDSB): The DPCDSB serves approximately 81,000 students in 151 schools, providing a faith-based education to students in Mississauga, Brampton, Caledon and Orangeville. More information can be found on this website.


  • York Region District School Board (YRDSB): The YRDSB serves approximately 121,000 students in 171 elementary schools and 31 secondary schools in the York region, which includes Richmond Hill, Markham, and Vaughan. More information can be found on this website.


  • York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB): The YCDSB serves approximately 50,000 students in 85 elementary and 16 secondary schools, providing a faith-based education to students in the York region. More information can be found on this website.


9. Additional Resources for Ontario.


Several resources are available on the Internet to help parents navigate the Ontario education system. Here are some useful websites:


  • Ontario Ministry of Education: This website provides information about Ontario's education system, including curriculum requirements and resources for parents. The website is mentioned in item 6 of this post.


  • School board websites: Each school board has a website that provides information about the schools in its area, enrollment requirements and policies. Some details about Toronto and GTA are mentioned in item 8 of this post.


Several resources are available on the Internet to help parents navigate the Ontario education system.

  • Ontario School Locator: This tool allows parents to search for schools in their area based on their home addresses. More information can be found on this website.


  • Ontario College of Teachers: This website provides information about teacher certification requirements and a directory of certified teachers. More information can be found on this website.


  • Settlement.org: This website offers resources for newcomers to Ontario, including information about the education system and how to find schools in your area. More Information about Education can be found on this website.


10. Curious facts about schools


Here are some of the particularities of the educational system that the moms I asked told me about compared to their countries:

  • There are no monthly school fees (at least in their children's schools) as in countries like ours.


  • In Ontario, there is a choice of public or Catholic school.


  • Siblings can be assigned to different schools, especially if some are in elementary and others in high school.


  • Some schools use uniforms, and some do not require uniforms.


Siblings can be assigned to different schools, especially if some are in elementary and others in high school.

  • Children's attendance is managed through a platform. Every time your child does not go to school, it must be reported in the application. If your child does not attend school and that absence is not reported, the school immediately calls the parents.


  • Requesting the use of the school bus depends on the distance from your home to the school. It is defined according to the meters that separate you from the school.


Requesting the use of the school bus depends on the distance from your home to the school.

  • Each district has a welcome and levelling office; at least the parents I met were summoned here before school started and assigned an academic advisor for any questions.


  • Children receive all school supplies at the school; they do not have to buy or bring pencils, books, notebooks, etc.


  • The baptismal certificate in the two cases I asked for was requested in the original language (Spanish).


  • One of the parents said that when there are activities or events for the children where the parent has to pay some small sum, in this case, it was a Pizza event on Wednesdays, no cash is sent with the children, but they have to pay for by an application.


 

I hope this post provides you with the basic information to begin researching the education system in Canada.


As a parent, you should research and gather all the necessary documents before moving to Canada. If you do so, you will be able to ensure a smooth transition of your children into the education system and prepare them for success in their academic careers.

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