In Montreal, children attend kindergarten (maternelle) between the ages of five and six, before moving on to elementary school (école primaire), which concludes in Grades six or eight. At this level, one classroom teacher is expected to instruct all general subjects. However, specialised teachers could instruct students in other areas, such as music or physical education. When it comes to middle schools or junior highs, students attend these to prepare for secondary education, with the schools generally offering Grades five and six, or seven to eight or 9.
High schools (école secondaire) last for five years, ranging from grades seven to eleven. This is split into two ‘cycles’, aligning with junior high school (grades seven to eight) and senior high school (grades nine to eleven). Once high school students complete grade eleven, they receive their high school diploma. In high school, students may study subjects such as math, biology, physics, chemistry, economics, political science, history, literature, robotics, French language, foreign language, and more. Individual teachers will be dedicated to each respective subject.
Interestingly, Quebec has the highest number of students attending private schools in North America, covering 17% of the student population. This is certainly noteworthy, as the number rises even further in the city of Montreal, sitting at around 30%. For expat families, in particular, private schools are a solid option, as they can include specialty subjects such as language or religion. They also offer an elevated level of education. While a majority of private schools are high schools, some primary schools are available. In order to attend private secondary schools, students will most likely have to take a scholastic exam before being selected.
When deciding on a school, public or private, it is important to attend the school before making an ultimate choice. Look out for open days. However, if possible, try and visit during a normal working day to get a better understanding of its regular operations. Try to come prepared with questions. These could be related to:
- The Curriculum: Is there a diverse selection of options? Does it place equal importance on core subjects and specialist subjects?
- Extracurricular activities: What type of activities do they offer? Is there a range of options that may suit your child’s passions and interests?
- Teaching staff: Are there specialist teachers? What level of qualification do they have?
- Accessibility: Are there exemplary facilities to accommodate special education needs and disabilities? What type of language requirement is needed (French or English)?
Remember, just one factor here could make a significant impact on a child’s education, so it is worth exploring and asking before making that final decision.
Due to its inclusive nature, there are a variety of alternative schools in Montreal that offer specialised programs. These could focus on sports, science, music, arts, and more. In order to attend, parents must attend a mandatory pre-admissions information session. Home-schooling is also an option, but parents must contact their school board, which will conduct evaluations. Those teaching through home-schooling must deliver appropriate knowledge and competencies for the student to attend the public or private school system.
On top of the available schools, tutoring is also readily available in Montreal for locals and expats. This is a great option for those looking to strengthen their French, or even to supplement specific subjects. Particularly for students who are new to the area, tutors are a great resource to assist in multiple areas. Companies such as Skooli, Superprof, and FirstTutors: Canada are solid options for those looking to connect with certified tutors.
An Overview of Schools in Montreal
There is a wide selection of schools to choose from when looking for a child’s education in Montreal. For some, too many options may be overwhelming, while others may revel in the opportunity to make their selection from a wider pool. However, ultimately, it comes down to the individual’s – or family’s – personality and the context of their situation. For example, expats may benefit more from private schools, as public schools place more of an expectation on children who predominantly speak French. However, for those with younger children who may assimilate faster, public schools could be a viable option to ensure they are fully immersed in the culture.
Fortunately, language schools are also available. Families that require their children to receive instruction in English can apply through the school board, or the private schools where they intend to enroll. This provides more of an option for children who may not be in the best position to attend a French-speaking school. Though it is important to note, due to Montreal’s impressive schooling system and inclusive nature, those who do not speak French will receive a good level of support.