Useful Links

  • Global Experience Ontario
  • Learn English or French
  • Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program
  • How to apply

Youth: Going to School

In Ontario, students attend secondary school for four years, from grade 9 to 12 (approximately age 14 to 18), and work toward an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD). The diploma has many requirements, and there are a number of ways you can customize these requirements to meet your interests and needs. This section will tell you what you need to know about:

To find out school start dates and holidays, consult the school year calendar.

If you don’t already know what school you will be going to, consult the Ministry of Education’s school information finder. Usually students attend the high school closest to their home, but there are specialty schools you can choose to attend if you want special instruction in a subject like art or skilled trades. Consult your local school board to see what specialty schools are available in your area.

Ontario also has a Catholic School System. You can find your local Catholic School Board here.

If English is not your first language, you may need to find a school that offers English as a Second Language classes or English Literacy Development classes. You can also take French as a Second Language classes. Contact your local school board’s newcomer reception centre for more information about what is available in your area.

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Getting Your Diploma

Every course you take in high school will give you credits toward your diploma. Some courses will be required, while some you will be able to choose. Some courses will prepare you for college while others will prepare you for university (learn about the differences in the Research Post-Secondary Options section). Learn more in the Ministry of Education’s Program and Diploma Requirements guide.

You will also need to successfully pass the Provincial Secondary School Test of Literacy in grade 10. If you have recently arrived in Canada, you may be exempt from the test. If you’re moderately comfortable with English, you may receive accommodations, such as having the questions read aloud. You will need to consult your principal for more information.

In addition, you will be required to complete 40 hours of community service (such as volunteering at a local food bank). For information on where to volunteer, check out our Volunteering section.

In grade 9, you will be required to complete a standardized test of math skills, facilitated by Ontario’s Education Quality and Accountability Office. Your marks do not count toward your diploma, but provide the Ministry of Education valuable feedback on student skills. As with the Provincial Secondary School Test of Literacy, your principal may exempt you from the test if you have recently arrived in Canada, or give you special accommodations.

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Education Options

If you have an idea of what you want to do after high school, consider a specialist high skill major. This program allows students to focus their learning on a specific economic sector while working towards their high school diploma.

Or, consider a co-op placement, where you can gain hands-on experience and cedits toward your high school diploma. For detailed information, consult the Ministry of Education’s Cooperative Education manual.

Another way to get experience is through the Dual Credit Program, which lets you take college courses or apprenticeship training that will count towards your high school diploma.

If you want to catch up on credits remotely or over the summer, contact your school board’s Distance Learning advisor to see what courses you can take through e-Learning Ontario.

If you need special attention in the learning process, research what special education opportunities are available to Ontario students.

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Enhancing Your Education

Apply to the Minister’s Student Advisory Council to voice your opinion on your education. Or attend a local student forum.

If you have an idea for a school project but need funding, apply for a grant.

If you are concerned about safety at school, learn what the Ontario Ministry of Education is doing to make schools safer.

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Research Post-Secondary Options

In Canada, colleges teach you hands-on skills to prepare you for a career. They teach a wide variety of subjects and programs range from 2-4 years in length. Universities teach academic and professional programs that range from 3-4 years in length. Learn more about the differences between them here.

SchoolFinder.com has links to university, college and career college programs, as well as scholarships and other funding.

Researching and applying to schools can take a long time. Learn more about how to apply.

Post-secondary education is expensive, but there are many organizations that give scholarships and awards to students who have excelled in school, sports and other extra-curricular activities. Once you have applied to schools, research what awards you can apply for at www.scholarshipscanada.com/.

The Ontario Student Assistance Program can provide loans to help fund your education.

CanLearn.ca summarizes different post-secondary learning paths and funding options.

If you are planning on applying to a Canadian university but have moved to Canada from a non-English speaking country within the last 4-5 years, you will be required to prove your English skills through the Test of English as a Foreign Language.

You may also find helpful information about post-secondary options in our Studying section.

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