- Download our Moving to Ottawa Guide (PDF)
Expats parents moving to Ottawa will be pleased to find that the city has high-quality English and French schools.
The Ontario Ministry of Education offers publicly funded education from kindergarten to grade 12. Expat parents with young kids will also find that the city supports students throughout their early years, with many centres dedicated to play-based learning.
Regardless of where expats choose to enrol their children, all students in Ontario must provide proof of immunisation. Expats can visit the Ontario government website for a full list of vaccine requirements.
Public schools in Ottawa
While most public schools in Ottawa instruct their students in English, there are a fair few French language schools in the city. Some public schools offer English as a Second Language (ESL) programmes, which can be especially helpful for non-English-speaking children.
The general standard of education in Ottawa’s public schools is good. However, we recommend expats consult with the school and network with other parents to get an accurate picture of the teaching standards and facilities.
Private schools in Ottawa
Most Canadian citizens living in Ottawa send their children to public schools. Nonetheless, the city has plenty of private schools, which may be a good option for expats who prefer for their children to access more facilities or learn a particular curriculum.
The standard of education at private schools in Ottawa is generally better than in public schools. Private schools in Ottawa have excellent facilities that allow students to excel in extra-curricular activities, such as sports and music. The classes are also smaller, meaning students receive more individual attention.
Faith-based schools in Ottawa
Ottawa has plenty of schools with religious affiliations. These institutions fall somewhere between the public and private school systems. Most religious schools in Ottawa are associated with the Catholic faith, but there are also Jewish and Islamic schools.
Tuition fees at faith-based schools in Ottawa are often more reasonable than at private schools, while those that fall within the public system are free. The standard of teaching is fairly high, and student discipline is considered much better than at public schools. While religious schools follow the national curriculum, they integrate an element of their religious values into the teaching.
International schools in Ottawa
Despite the city’s substantial expat population, Ottawa only has a handful of international schools, with most following the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum.
Expats who intend to send their children to an international school should be aware that competition in Ottawa is fierce.
Students are usually expected to write entrance exams and attend an interview. Expats should start the application process as soon as possible, as there are relatively long waiting lists. Fees at international schools in Ottawa can be exorbitant.
There is also the option to send children to a bilingual school. Bilingual schools are not international schools in the traditional sense. They generally follow the province’s prescribed curriculum, but offer lessons in French and English, allowing children to become fluent in both languages.
Homeschooling in Ottawa
Homeschooling is legal in Ontario, but expat parents must follow the correct procedures. Parents must notify the school board of their decision to homeschool their children annually before the start of the academic year.
Homeschooling families can still access resources in the public school system, including assessments administered by the Education Quality and Accountability Office. Additionally, parents can opt for distance learning through the Independent Learning Centre (ILC). The ILC offers full-, half-, and non-credit courses via distance learning.
Furthermore, expats can also find schools in Ottawa offering both mainstream classes and distance learning opportunities.
Special-needs education in Ottawa
All children have the right to receive an education in Ottawa, and this extends to special needs students. Schools in Ottawa support students with behavioural, communication, intellectual and physical problems.
Ottawa’s special-education programmes are inclusive and involve adapting instruction and assessments to students' needs where necessary. Assistive devices can be made available, and educators are generally well-trained to apply specific teaching strategies.
We suggest expats consult with schools and the school board to assess their child’s needs. The school board will then develop an Individualised Education Plan to outline the specific services required by the student.
Tutors in Ottawa
Expats can easily find a tutor in Ottawa. The city boasts several private tutoring companies and online platforms that allow families to search for a specialist tutor with expertise in particular academic subjects. These include TutorBright, Superprof and FirstTutors: Canada.
►Find out more about transport options in the city by checking out Getting Around in Ottawa
"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 the school."
Read more of South African expat Catherine's experiences in Canada.
Are you an expat living in Ottawa?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Ottawa. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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