As early as elementary school, parents from around the world send their children to attend one of Canada’s K-12 schools. For good reason: students benefit from a world-class learning environment while living in supportive, friendly accommodations in safe communities.
It will be very important for the agent to convey to students’ families that they will not only receive an excellent, standardized education in Canada, but safe and extensive social supports and lodging as well.
In addition, international students benefit from a full range of extra-curricular activities and community involvement that produces well-rounded, global citizens. Embracing diversity, cross-cultural collaboration, respect, and tolerance are highly valued in Canadian society, and this is fully reflected in the country’s educational programs and within the classroom experience.
Whether families choose an accredited boarding school or a homestay program with a caring family, they can rest assured that their child will receive the attention and guidance needed to succeed in every way.
Understanding the Options
Within the Canadian K-12 education landscape:
Unlike in some other countries, 95% of Canadian parents choose to enrol their children in public schools for an excellent quality of education. Public schools in Canada:
Independent and private schools offering a Canadian curriculum often also offer enriched or specialized programs, such as:
They may also be known for such things as small class sizes, enriched teaching resources, or comprehensive boarding facilities. For reasons like these, they can be more expensive than public schools in Canada.
Across the public, private, and independent spectrums, students in Canada learn to become global citizens from a young age. Their education provides an international outlook and students embrace the diversity of cultures they learn about and see in their own classrooms.
Canada values learning and cares about student success, offering support for language development, special needs, adaptive learning techniques, and manageable class sizes.
Standard core academic courses across all school types include:
As students progress through grade levels, they can opt for specialized optional courses sometimes referred to as "electives" according to their interests, such as:
Courses offered will vary by school. A wide range of clubs and extra-curricular activities are also offered in all schools. *While the education system in each province is similar to those in the other provinces in many ways, it will have its own curriculum and guidelines to reflect the culture and history of its region.
Homestay refers to an international student living with a local family while studying in Canada. This is often one of the most memorable aspects of an international student’s Canadian K-12 experience. Alternatively, he/she may be housed in a dormitory with other students, which is more common with private schools). Being able to answer the questions an international student’s family will have about their child’s living arrangement is as important as knowing about the educational part of their study abroad experience.
International students living in homestay truly become a part of the Canadian family and will be:
Associations Involved in K-12 International Activity
CAPS-I (the Canadian Association of Public Schools—International) focuses specifically on international students. Its member schools believe:
There are currently 100 public school boards across Canada that are members of CAPS-I. They enroll about 20,000 international students in full-year or one-semester programs and as many for short-term experiences. CAPS-I schools:
Annual tuition and homestay fees combined range from $18,000 to $24,000 for a full-year program and vary by location depending upon the cost of living.
Private and Independent Schools
For private/independent schools, tuition and boarding fees range from $30,000 to $60,000 per year depending on the institution.
The Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS) is a membership association of not-for-profit independent schools that specialize in university preparation. Member schools are provincially licensed, board-governed, and are not driven by commercial interests (thus not-for-profit). Of particular interest, each school must meet high standards of excellence established by an independent accreditation commission.
In Canada, education is provincially mandated, and CAIS Schools are required to meet Ministry requirements.
However, all schools undergo an additional, rigorous CAIS National Standards accreditation process. This process is recognized by the NAIS Commission on Accreditation and ensures that all accredited schools are pursuing best practices in every major area of program and operation. In fact, out of the thousands of private and independent schools in Canada, only 93 schools meet the 12 CAIS National Standards and have earned accreditation.
These regional associations offer region-specific guidance and information that may be of use to those attending schools in BC, Ontario, or Quebec:
Canadian K-12 Learning Environment
Generally, it can be said that in elementary and secondary (K-12) schools in Canada: