One of the hardest decisions parents have to make is what type of school to send their child to: a Private or Public Canadian School.

When trying to decide between Private or Public Canadian Schools, one of the biggest deciding factors is often budget, but there are many other factors to consider.

There are pros and cons to both Private and Public Canadian Schools.  It all depends on what your child needs and what your expectations are. For example, if you expect your child’s education to prepare them to apply for university, it really doesn’t matter what type of school they attend. Universities in Canada admit students based on marks and sometimes it’s harder to get high marks in some independent schools with more rigorous programs.


Private or Public Canadian School - How to decide what is best.  Futurebright Canada, Filiz Altinoglu - Canadian teen arriving at school in the Fall

Let’s dive into the Pros and Cons of Public Canadian Schools:

Public Canadian Schools – PROS

  • Your child will attend school with children living in the neighbourhood, making it easier to make friends with classmates residing nearby. You will also meet local parents in your community.
  • Your child may be exposed to a greater diversity of cultures and ethnicities than in some Canadian private schools.
  • Canadian public schools are free for Canadian residents and citizens. For international students, public schools charge around $16,000-$18,000. This is much less than the tuition at many private independent schools, usually starting at $25,000-$35,000 to both local and international students.
  • Canadian public schools tend to offer more accommodation options, and services for special education needs such as speech therapy, physical, occupational, and behaviour therapy to students who need it.
  • Public schools in Canada have to deliver education options that meet the needs of all students as outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) of 2004.
  • Canadian public schools also offer an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
  • Public school teachers tend to have more experience and qualifications to serve special need students than those at private schools. Public school teachers must be certified.

Public Canadian Schools – CONS

  • Public schools are governed by the provincial education ministries’ standard and they aim to educate all students to this level. However, students who are already above that level and are ahead of the curriculum (eg. early / fast readers) sometimes get bored or are not challenged. Even when they are challenged, some kids don’t put in as much effort. Private and independent Canadian schools with rigorous programmes offer more opportunity to keep kids engaged in different areas of interest.
  • Overcrowding has become an issue in some public Canadian schools, especially in Toronto where schools were built for fewer students than the growing community around them. As class sizes increase, some students studies take place in portable classrooms far from the main building.
  • Your child may not get the one-on-one attention he or she might need in large public school classes.
  • Canadian public school teachers and workers have unions such as Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation of Ontario (OSSTF). the unions sometimes go on strike for days when they have disputes with the school boards.
  • Some Canadian public schools experience increased discipline issues in certain neighborhoods. The school may be limited in its actions.
  • The quality of Canadian public education differs significantly from one school to another – even in the same city. Parents need to choose housing according to the reputation of the school in the area.
  • Public school budgets may limit access to quality learning materials.
  • Public school students are required to take standardized tests, and teachers are pressured to spend a significant amount of time “teaching to the tests.”
  • Although Canadian schools are bound by law to provide your child with an individualized education, you may have to be more proactive to get your child what he or she needs to thrive in the educational system.
  • A public school might not accommodate when a child is absent due to illness, treatments, or therapy, to prevent falling behind. You may have to follow up closely for your child to receive the necessary services.

Pros and Cons of Private Canadian Schools:

Private Canadian Schools – PROS

  • Private schools tend to have smaller class sizes, which can lead to more individualized attention for students. For example, the average class size at Upper Canada College in Toronto is 16 students.
  • Private schools often have more specialized/enriched programs and extracurricular activities, such as those in the arts, sciences and athletics. Your child will experience more practical opportunities to explore and grow their skills and interests on and off the campus.
  • Compared to public schools, most private schools have much more rigorous academic standards. This may be better suited for some students. For example, the Bishop Strachan School in Toronto has an International Baccalaureate program.
  • Private schools can offer more personalized attention for students. For example, the York School in Toronto has a student-to-teacher ratio of 7:1.
  • Private schools may have more resources available for your child, such as newer technology and better facilities. For example, the Havergal College in Toronto has a state-of-the-art science and technology center.
  • If your child needs extra help or attention, private schools can offer them a more supportive and nurturing environment catering to their needs.
  • Private schools can have a stronger focus on character development, moral education, independence, and real-world success.

Private Canadian Schools – CONS

  • Private schools can be expensive. For both Canadian and international students, fees can be at least $25,000 to $35,000 per year depending on the school. For example, tuition at Upper Canada College in Toronto ranges from $36,500 to $63,500 per year. The costs can add up: application fees, transportation, supplies, and extracurricular activities. You have to make careful budgeting decisions.
  • Because of their high standards, private day schools and boarding schools are much more selective; it can be difficult for some students to get in.
  • Some private schools may not offer as many services for students with special needs as public schools with an IEP. For example, Upper Canada College in Toronto does not have a special education program. That said, the Applewood Academy for Progressive Learning in Belleville makes up for this with robust special needs programs and services, providing your child educational, psychological and emotional support that couldn’t be accessed elsewhere.
  • Private schools may not be as well-regulated as public schools. They are not required to follow the same curriculum as public schools.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to send your child to a public Canadian school or a private school is a personal one. We offer a full range of Educational Consulting Services to help families find the best Canadian school for their children, whether it is a Public or Private Canadian School. Our student first approach starts with understanding your child’s unique profile including their educational background as well as your families needs and values.  We craft a list of school recommendations specifically tailored for your child. Next, we schedule school visits and shortlist schools. We work with parents on the application process including interview preparation and private tutoring.  Finally, we help you choose the school which is the best fit for your child.

Don’t get overwhelmed by the choices! Request a free consultation. We’d love to talk to you & your child about their education.

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