Public or Private School?


Before making any major decisions about your children’s education, it’s important to consider their individual ability, character and requirements.

This is of particular importance if you’re able to choose between public and private education, when the following points should be considered:

  •  How long are you planning to stay in Canada? If you’re uncertain, it’s probably better to assume a long stay. Due to language and other integration problems, enrolling a child in a Canadian school (public or private) with a Canadian syllabus is recommended only for a minimum of one year, particularly for teenage children.
  •  Bear in mind that the area where you choose to live will affect your choice of public schools. It’s usually necessary to send your child to the public school that serves the area where you live, which is why homes within the catchment area of desirable schools are in demand and more expensive. It’s difficult and may be impossible to get your child accepted at a public school in another area. In some cities (e.g. Edmonton) parents can send their children to any school in the city and in Manitoba parents can choose any school in the province, provided places are available.
  •  Do you know where you’re going after Canada? This may be an important consideration regarding your children’s schooling. How old are your children and what age will they be when you plan to leave Canada? What future plans do you have for their education and in which country?
  •  What educational level are your children at now and how will they fit into the Canadian public school system or a private school? The younger they are, the easier it will be to place them in a suitable school.
  •  If your children don’t speak English or French, how do they view the thought of studying in one of these languages? Are they willing to take ESL or FSL classes? Does the school offer a good programme? Alternatively, is schooling available in Canada in their mother tongue?
  •  What are the school hours and the school holiday (vacation) periods? How will they affect your family’s work and leisure activities?
  •  Is religion an important consideration in your choice of school? Around a quarter of public schools are Roman Catholic ‘separate’ (i.e. denominational) schools and many private schools are also maintained by religious organisations.
  •  Do you want your children to attend a mixed (co-educational) or a single-sex school? All public schools in Canada and the majority of private schools are mixed.
  •  Should you send your children to a boarding school? If so, should it be in Canada or in another country?
  •  What are the secondary and higher education prospects for your children in Canada or another country? Are Canadian examinations or qualifications recognised in your home country or the country where you plan to live after leaving Canada?
  •  Do the schools under consideration have a good academic record? What percentage of high school pupils go on to higher education? Other important indicators are the school dropout rate, the average daily attendance rate, the expenditure per pupil (including textbooks) and the average teacher salary.
  •  How large are the classes? What is the teacher-student ratio?

Obtain the opinions and advice of others who have been faced with the same decisions and problems as yourself and collect as much information as possible before making any decisions. Speak to the principals and teachers of schools on your shortlist. Finally, most parents find that it’s beneficial to discuss the alternatives with their children before coming to a decision.

This article is an extract from Living and working in Canada. Click here to get a copy now.

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