Education and child care

*Excerpted from the University of Toronto's family care offices website.

Early childhood education*

Kitchener-Waterloo offers a wide range of child care and children's services throughout the twin cities. These include child care centres, preschools, home child care agencies, caregiver registries, and family resource programs. Many child care centres offer challenging curricula, planned and implemented by teachers with advanced training in early childhood education. Waiting lists can be lengthy so it is important to apply early. Child teacher ratios and safety standards are strictly regulated in Ontario. The government funds subsidies for lower income families.

The University of Waterloo also provides many child care services on campus. If, however, you are looking for other child care facilities closer to home, check out the Region of Waterloo's child care connections website.

Elementary and secondary education*

Public schools:

In Ontario, there are four publicly funded school systems, English Public (Waterloo Region District School Board), English Catholic (Waterloo Catholic District School Board), French-language Public (Conseil scolaire Viamonde/Viamonde School Board), and French-language Catholic (Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud/Catholic District School Board Centre South). The governance structure entails district schools boards managed by elected officials. The public school systems have relatively high academic standards and enjoy widespread support, though numerous other educational choices exist. All permanent residents between the ages of 6 and 16 must attend school, as stipulated in the Ontario Education Act which can be accessed through the Government of Ontario's website. The Education Act also ensures that all children, regardless of their physical or mental capabilities, have access to education suitable to them. School boards provide a comprehensive selection of programs for children with special needs. Students are generally required to attend the school in the area where they live. Busing is limited.

Elementary schools provide programs for junior and senior kindergarten (for children aged 4 and 5) and grades one to eight (aged 6 - 13). The majority of the public school board schools are split into elementary and senior elementary schools, whereas the separate school board has composite elementary schools with kindergarten through to grade 8. Tuition fees range from $11,000 to $12,000 per foreign student per year. Be sure to have a study permit for each child who will be attending school. Tuition fees and study permits for any of your children under the age of majority (18 years of age in Ontario) are waived if you have a work permit.

The school year begins early in September, and ends in late June, with vacations of about two weeks around the end of December and a week-long break in March. Schools operate Monday through Friday. The school day runs from about 8:30 a.m to 3:30 p.m.

English is the language of instruction in the schools, though Waterloo district has a French language school board for the children of Francophone parents. In addition, a number of schools in the public and separate systems offer optional French immersion programs, where all or most subjects are taught in French. English as a Second Language (ESL) classes are given where there is a need, at both elementary and secondary school levels, and are also offered in the evenings for adults.

For the public school board (Waterloo Region District School Board), contact the school directly for enrolment information.
For the Catholic school board (Waterloo Catholic District School Board), contact the school directly for enrolment information. 

Private schools:

While most faculty and staff send their children to public schools, there are a number of independent private schools in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. These schools offer a huge range of unique programming. Their curricula reflect diverse religious, cultural and educational philosophies including Montessori, Waldorf and Christian. Other schools offer specialized academic programs such as the International Baccalaureate. These schools are financed through tuition and donations. The Ministry of Education maintains a directory of private elementary and secondary schools.

Information about private schools can be accessed through the  Canadian accredited independent schools website.

Post-secondary education

There are several post-secondary options in the Kitchener-Waterloo area including two universities, and one community college. They offer programs from academic to graphic design and information technologies. The Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities provides a good overview of post-secondary education in Ontario and includes useful links to individual universities, colleges of applied arts and technology, privately funded degree-granting institutions, and registered private vocational schools.

A high school graduation diploma, or its equivalent, with adequate standing, is the basic qualification for admission to most Canadian universities and colleges, although high marks or additional qualifications will be necessary for many programs.

For evaluation of foreign education documents, contact the University of Waterloo's international students' office at 519-888-4567, ext. 32814.

Kitchener-Waterloo's adult population has virtually unlimited opportunities for further education. Universities, colleges, vocational schools, boards of education, municipal recreation departments, ethnic organizations, and many more institutions offer courses and programs that lead to a degree or diploma, or that are simply for personal satisfaction. Local libraries (Kitchener Public Library and Waterloo Public Library) or the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre will carry information about programs available in your neighbourhood.