Education in Canada

Secondary School

1. What is a secondary school?
A secondary school, which is more commonly referred to as a high school, is comprised of four years, from grade 9 to grade 12. If a student has difficulty completing secondary education in four years there is the option of extending the time in order to acquire the credits that are needed to get a secondary school diploma. While studying in secondary school, students have to choose some courses that will help them towards their chosen career.
Source: The Newcomer’s Guide to Secondary School in Ontario.

2. What are students taught in secondary school?
The following courses are taught in secondary school:
•Guidance and Career Education
•Health and Physical Education
•Interdisciplinary Studies
•Native Studies
•Technological Education
•Social Sciences and Humanities
•The Arts
•Business Studies
•Canadian and World Studies
•Classical Studies and International Languages
•Computer Studies
If it is necessary, the children of newcomers can take additional English as a Second Language courses.
Source: Ontario secondary school program

3. How can I find the right secondary school?
Usually, the choice of which secondary school you would like to send your child to is based on the area where you live; however, sometimes it's not possible if the school in your area does not offer the courses that are needed for your child's future career. During secondary school, students prepare themselves either for university, college or for joining the workforce right after graduation. All courses are not offered in all schools; therefore, sometimes choosing the secondary school is not based on location, but on which school offers the necessary courses. If you are interested in a private school, find out if the school has an official registration, if the teachers have licences, and whether after graduation this school will give a standard school certificate which will be recognized by post-secondary institutions in Canada.
Source: Search for a secondary school

4. What is the Newcomer Reception Centre?
This is a centre which assesses English and mathematical knowledge of newcomers' children between the ages of fourteen and twenty, who should be in secondary school. At the parents' request, instructors will speak with the student in his/her native language. Tests can take an entire day with a lunch break in between. Afterwards, the teacher will discuss the results of the test assessment with the parents and student and will decide which grade the student needs to be sent to. Toronto has three such centres.
Source: What is a school reception centre?

5. Can I have an interview with my child’s teacher in secondary school?
While studying at a secondary school your child will have several teachers. You can set up appointments one or two times a year to meet your child's teachers. The following questions usually are discussed during the interview:
•In which courses does your child do well?
•How does your child see his or her future after the completion of secondary school?
•Which courses does your child need to take in order to realize his or her goals?
•Who is available to advise your child as to which occupations he or she is suited for?
•What kind of school volunteer work is available?
You can see an example of a video on Parent Teacher Interviews in Secondary School

6. How can I choose secondary school courses?
When students apply for a secondary school, they have a wide choice of new subjects they can study. The choice of subjects generally depends on what the student plans to do after school. Usually parents are involved in the selection of school courses, taking into account the children’s interests and school counsellor advice. In grades 9-10 students can choose basic, applied or academic courses. Those who study basic courses in grades 11-12 will be ready to work after school, those who study applied courses in grades 11-12 will be prepared for college, and those who study academic courses in grades 11-12 will be prepared for university.

7. What assistance is provided to secondary school students in career planning?
In secondary schools, there are teacher-advisers and guidance counsellors who will help students with career planning. A teacher-advisor is assigned to each secondary school student and regularly meets with the student during the school year, helping him or her to make a personal annual education plan. Also, the teacher-adviser monitors the implementation of this plan and meets with the student's parents to discuss and solve problems. The personal curriculum includes both general subjects and subjects that are necessary for the implementation of the planned career after graduation.
Guidance counsellors are assigned to students in grade 12. They inform the student and his parents about the current labour market in Canada, the most promising occupations and what is required to get into them. They also help the students to assess their skills and capabilities and tell them how to become better acquainted with their chosen occupation.
In Ontario, for secondary school students who already want to begin training for the workforce during their studies at school, there are programs such as Student Success, Dual Credits, Specialist High Skills Majors and Cooperative Education, which allow students to combine study at school with work, or while training at another institution.

8. Why should my child perform volunteer and extra-curricular activities at school?
To get a secondary school diploma students must work 40 hours on extra-curricular activities as volunteers. This is also taken into account for admission to college or university. The volunteer work enables volunteers to make friends, learn new techniques and get references. You can find suitable volunteer work by yourself or by contacting the volunteer centre or organization you are interested in. Usually, volunteer work is performed outside of the classroom after completing grade 9. While finding volunteer work, it is necessary to make sure that it will be recognized as suitable for the requirements of the diploma, and that you can get the necessary documents.
Sources: Why should I volunteer?

9. What are the requirements for secondary school graduates?
To get an Ontario Secondary School Diploma, students must obtain 30 credits (one credit is equivalent to 110 hour course), 18 of which are by studying compulsory courses and 12 by studying courses selected by the student. Also, students have to complete 40 hours of volunteer work and pass a literacy exam. If a student terminates his studies after a set of 14 credits, he will receive another document – an Ontario Secondary School Certificate, and if fewer credits are obtained, a Certificate of Accomplishment. If at the end of secondary school the student fails to collect the required number of credits for graduation, he or she can earn the missing credits later in day or evening schools for adults.
Sources: What does a student need to graduate from high school?,Secondary%20School%20Literacy%20Course%20(OSSLC)

10. What is the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test?
The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT) is a compulsory test for all students of public schools in the province of Ontario to test their ability to read. It is conducted in grade 10. The results of this test are not reflected in student’s grades, but without successfully passing this test students cannot receive a high school diploma. When students fail this test, they receive a detailed explanation of what their literacy problems are and what they still need to work on. Some students can take the special Ontario Secondary School Literacy Course. You can retake the OSSLT several times. Students enrolled in special programs pass the test in separate classes, and are given more time. Also, newly arrived immigrants learning English get certain privileges. Some schools run training courses for passing the OSSLT. To find a sample of the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test go to and search for Sample Test Booklet.

11. How can an adult receive a secondary school diploma?
If you for some reason were not able to finish secondary school, you can do it by studying in schools for adults. Many regional and city boards of education offer courses in secondary schools for adults in the afternoon or evening, and during the summer. You can also learn by correspondence using the Internet. There are colleges provide a complete school education. To obtain a Canadian secondary school diploma, you'll need to pass the General Educational Development exam (GED). It can be completed even through self-study at home. After passing the examination you will receive an Ontario Secondary School Equivalency Certificate, which many post-graduation institutions recognize as a regular secondary school diploma.
Source: Where can I take high school courses?

12. Where can I find sources of additional information about secondary schools in Canada? 
Secondary education

13. Are there any Canadian sources in other languages?
What do you need to graduate from high school?