School systems in Ontario

There are two publicly-funded school systems in Ontario, one that is non-denominational and one that is Roman Catholic.

In Toronto

The Non-Denominational System: In Toronto, the non-denominational system has an English board of education (called the Toronto District School Board) and a French board of education (called the "Conseil scolaire public de district Centre-Sud-Ouest"). The English board is the result of the amalgamation on January 1, 1998 of six boards of education, one each for the former Cities of Toronto, Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough, York, and the Borough of East York. All the schools in the French public school board are non-denominational and teach students in French.

The Toronto Catholic School Board: The Toronto Catholic School Board covers all of Toronto's publicly-funded Roman Catholic schools. It has a French section and an English section.

Private Schools: There are many private and parochial schools that are not part of the publicly-funded school systems. For example, there are Jewish schools within a private Board of Jewish Education.

Enrolling children in school

Newcomers must decide whether to send their children to English or to French schools. They must also choose among the non-denominational, Roman Catholic, or private systems. After finding the nearest school that meets their requirements, parents may visit the school and ask questions about it. Or they can call their school board and ask about other schools.

In most cases, it is best for children to begin school soon after arriving in Canada. It is not always easy to know which grade your child should enter (especially if he or she is of high school age), but this can be worked out with school staff. They will suggest a grade for your child and will help you make important decisions about his or her education.

Before your child can be enrolled, you must prove that he or she has been immunized as required by the laws of Ontario. School staff can explain the immunization requirements.

When you register your child, tell school staff about your child's special needs, interests, and problems, if any. Make sure that staff understand your child's medical or dietary needs and learning problems. Give the staff a good idea of your child's previous education. School documents are not required but would be helpful.

You can find out about school hours, lunch arrangements, holidays, and "before school" and "after school" activities from the staff.

Note: By Ontario law, children under the age of 18 have the right to attend school in the area served by their local board of education. This is true even if they, their parents, or their guardians are in Canada illegally or without status.

In practice, refugee claimants are sometimes asked to show written proof that their refugee claim for themselves and their children is being considered in Canada. If this happens, it should be enough to show school authorities the document entitled "Acknowledgment of Intention to Claim Refugee Status". With or without documents, however, a child's admission to school should not be delayed.

Parents or guardians who are having problems registering their child for school should contact their community legal clinic.

Adult Education

English as a Second Language: ESL Classes

English classes for newcomers are often called ESL classes. "ESL" stands for "English as a Second Language".

ESL classes are offered through boards of education, community colleges, immigrant aid agencies (such as COSTI, the Chinese Interpreter and Information Service, and St. Stephen's Community Centre in Toronto), and many other organizations.

Some ESL classes are given during the day. Others are given in the evening or on the weekend. Child care can sometimes be arranged. Some classes are continuous, but most have waiting lists.

For more information, contact your school board, immigrant aid agency, or community information centre.

High school and college programs

If you wish to upgrade your education, you can take high school or college classes. With few exceptions, if you are not a permanent resident, you must first apply for and obtain a student authorization from Immigration.

You also have to meet the requirements of the school you want to attend. See the fact sheet called Educational Equivalency for information about getting your educational qualifications assessed.



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Migration to Canada
I An Introduction I Health I Housing I Welfare Schemes I Your Rights & Duties