- Download our Moving to Montreal Guide (PDF)
Expat parents should note that the main language of instruction in most of Montreal’s schools is French. While this language barrier might prove difficult for some new arrivals, parents should rest assured that children whose first language is not French will receive adequate support.
Public schools in Montreal
Children in Montreal start school at the age of five in a maternelle and usually finish at 17. Grade 1 to 6 is école primaire and école secondaire is from grade 7 to 11.
High school in Montreal only goes up to grade 11 instead of grade 12, as is the case in the general Canadian education system. For this reason, students who wish to continue to university level must first complete grades 12 and 13 at a post-secondary college.
Public schools are best suited for very young expat children who tend to assimilate quicker, or those who have a good grasp of French already.
Language in schools in Montreal
Children in Quebec are encouraged to attend French-language public schools, but English-language public schools are also available.
Families must apply for their children to receive instruction in English and, fortunately, applications are normally processed within 10 working days. Eligible families can apply through the school board or the private schools where they plan on enrolling. Successful applicants will receive a Déclaration d’admissibilité à l’enseignement en Anglais (declaration of eligibility for instruction in English).
We advise that expat parents check their eligibility and research the application processes on the official Quebec Ministère de l'Éducation website.
In French-language schools, English is taught as a second language, while English-immersion programmes are also available. There are also fully bilingual schools in Quebec, with many private schools in Montreal offering bilingual instruction as well.
Private schools in Montreal
A large portion of Montreal’s student population attends private schools, as certified private schools receive government subsidies, which reduces fees. Most private schools are high schools, and many also have religious affiliations.
Children who want to attend a private high school must pass an entrance exam and demonstrate academic excellence throughout their primary schooling.
Expats should note that non-subsidised private schools in Montreal are expensive.
International schools in Montreal
Non-Francophone expats will be spoilt for choice when it comes to international schools in Montreal. The city has plenty of international schools catering to different languages and curricula, but tuition is notoriously expensive, so parents will need to budget carefully.
Application requirements vary between international schools in Montreal, but they are generally quite extensive across the board. Most institutions will require the student's previous schooling records and an application form. Expat parents must also submit a copy of the child’s Déclaration d’admissibilité à l’enseignement en Anglais.
Special-needs education in Montreal
Thanks to the rising popularity of inclusive education, children with physical, social, behavioural and learning disabilities can enter mainstream schools and receive the additional support necessary to succeed.
The English Montreal School Board (EMSB), one of five public school boards in the city, offers comprehensive services to support students with special needs. Services include specialised classes, adjusted curricula and access to learning resources. EMSB also gives families access to professional evaluation to determine the child’s needs.
Expats can also find specialised schools and education programmes for youth and adults with disabilities.
Homeschooling in Montreal
Parents and guardians have a legal right to educate their children at home rather than have them attend traditional schools. However, the law states that homeschooling must be rigorous and provides a framework of content standards families must meet.
Families must notify the Ministère de l'Éducation and the school board of their homeschooling plans on or before the first of July each year. There will also be regular meetings and evaluations to track the student’s progress.
As such, we strongly recommend that expat families intending to follow this stream of education do their research and follow the necessary procedures.
Tutors in Montreal
Finding a tutor in Montreal should be fairly easy for expats. Whether children require extra help with specific subjects or expats want to start learning French, tutors can be great resources.
Several reputable companies and websites, including Skooli, Superprof and FirstTutors: Canada, can connect expats with certified tutors.
►Get an idea of the different Areas and Suburbs around Montreal
►Getting Around in Montreal explores the best ways of navigating the city
"Canada has an excellent education system and parents will have a wide variety of options when it comes their kids' schooling. No matter which option you choose, kids will get a good education. Our children go to our local public school and we are quite happy with it."
Read more about South African expat Catherine's experiences in Canada in our interview.
Are you an expat living in Montreal?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Montreal. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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