Expat parents will find that the standard of education and schools in Canada is high, and the sheer assortment of schooling options impressive. In fact, even just the number of organisations charged with ranking and evaluating the schools in Canada is a force to be reckoned with. Canada prides itself on its transparent systems and education is no exception.
It makes sense then that concerned parents moving to this geographically large country with their little ones can stop worrying and start sifting through the resources that can help them make an informed decision. For those parents who would like to do a little "sizing up" of their own, 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 certainly 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 blacklisted by parents for years. Consult each institution's report card for a better idea of its performance. Furthermore, as students attend Canadian public schools based on catchment zones, parents may 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 international schools, military schools and special-needs 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.
Furthermore, each school can establish its own curriculum, some claiming different language affiliations, teaching styles and religious value systems. This point in particular, may be important to those expats who'd prefer their children continue learning in their native 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.