Public vs. Private Education in Ontario

If you’re relocating to Ontario with your children, you’re probably interested in their education options. In Ontario, the public school system is run by the Ministry of Education. It runs the four different types of public school boards: English Public, English Catholic, French Public and French Catholic. Each one of these options has the same standards, prepares students for exams and teaches the same academic subjects. Independent private schools are privately owned, and range from day school to full boarding school. Each option is dedicated to providing your children with top-notch education that will prepare them to be successful and well-rounded adults.

Before making any decisions, you will benefit from weighing the pros and cons of public and private education in Toronto. Here’s an introduction to them.

Public Education in Ontario…

The benefits of public education in Toronto:

  • Public education is free for all students who are residents of Ontario from kindergarten to grade 12 of high school.
  • Public schools are regulated, follow the education act, and  must provide students with an environment that fosters not only their academic understanding, but positive development of health and character as well.
  • School boards also regularly integrate new technology and information into their curriculums, in order to provide the most effective education possible.
  • School bus systems are usually available to provide easy and convenient transportation for students.
  • Before and after-school programs are generally available, which can be a big help for busy parents with full-time jobs.
  • Teachers are required to have certain credentials that may not be required at private schools.
  • Services for students with disabilities are usually available.

The downside of public education in Ontario:

  • In general, children must be enrolled with the school board found in the district in which they live. This means there are few options for which schools they attend.
  • Class sizes may be larger than those of private schools, which could mean less personalized attention from teachers.
  • Academically advanced children may not always be challenged as much as they would like.
  • There is some discussion of a lower quality of education at public schools vs. private schools in Toronto, though this sentiment varies greatly depending on the schools in question.


Private Education in Ontario…

The benefits of private education in Ontario:

  • Depending on the school, a wider selection of courses in specialized subjects may be offered.
  • Class sizes are usually smaller.
  • Specialized programs and institutions exist. They can be religious or faith-based, or experimental in nature (for instance, no letter grades or hands-on learning philosophies). Private schools can be specialized for those gifted in academics, sports, the arts or another focus. Additionally, there are schools geared towards students with special needs or social difficulties.
  • The curriculum can be more challenging than the curriculum for public education in Ontario.

The downside of private education in Ontario: 

  • Schools are not free and tuition can range anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000 per semester.
  • Because private schools tend to be smaller, fewer extracurricular activities (like sports teams or clubs) are usually offered.
  • Teachers may not hold the same teaching credentials that their public school counterparts do.
  • Students are usually required to take entrance exams, and sometimes attend an interview or submit portfolios of work.
  • The process of finding and applying for public school must begin from one to two years before enrollment begins.


Remember that when choosing a schooling option, there is no right decision. It’s important to think about whats best for you, your children and your family. From the team, good luck!


Want to learn more about education in Ontario? Sign up for and get full access to “The Guide.” Read the “Education”  and “Studying” chapters for more information on this topic.


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(Photos: Parker Knight via Flickr, cc,, cc, Woodly Wonder Works via Flickr cc) 


About Catherine

It’s always been easy for me to have lots of love for Canada. As a native Canadian, I enjoy a both the vibrant cities full of excitement for young people, and the many opportunities to explore more remote parts of the country too. In my day-to-day life, it’s important for me to live an eco-friendly and health-conscious lifestyle. I like to take my kids on outings to the apple orchard in fall, a sugar shack in the spring, and to the many city parks during winter for ice skating, cross country skiing and snowman building. What better way for me to show my thanks to Canada then to help others with their journies of relocating to the country? I hope that I, and the rest of the team, can help ease your mind during your transition. Il n’a jamais été difficile pour moi d’aimer le Canada. En tant que Canadien d’origine, je profite d’une ville dynamique, riche en activités pour les jeunes mais aussi de possibilités pour explorer d’autres endroits du pays. Dans ma vie quotidienne, il est important pour moi de vivre en respectant l’environnement et la santé. J’aime amener mes enfants dans les pommeraies l’automne, dans une cabane à sucre au printemps et dans les nombreux parcs de la ville pour patiner en hiver, faire du ski de fond et des bonhommes de neige. Aider les autres dans leur relocalisation dans ce pays est une des meilleures façon de remercier le Canada. J’espère que l’équipe de et moi pourrons vous soulager dans votre période de transition. //