When relocating to a new country with a young family, one of your top concerns is likely to be finding the right school for the children. Many parents will be completely satisfied with Canada’s mainstream education system, which has very high standards. But some families are interested in an alternative approach.
In Montreal, and throughout Canada, you can find a wide variety of alternative education options, but it’s not always easy to sort them out. Of course, the term alternative education can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Montreal has a number of Montessori schools, as well as a Waldorf school, also referred to as a Steiner school. Then there are forest schools and all manner of private academies that focus on languages, athletics or the arts. Home schooling is also an option in Canada.
Be sure to check out some of our other in-depth articles to learn more about Canada’s education system.
Public School in Montreal, Quebec
Canadian schools have a very hight standard for teaching and curriculum, and indeed, most Canadian families send their children to public school. For primary, secondary, and university level education, Canada has among the best schools in the world. According to various surveys, and depending on different criteria, the country education system typically ranks somewhere in the top four, alongside the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany.
One restriction to be aware of in Montreal, however, is that French is the primary language for education, business and government. In order to receive education in English, students must pay to attend a private English school, or else qualify to attend one of the city’s many English-language public schools.
Eligibility for English Instruction
According to Bill 101, a student must meet one of the following requirements in order to be eligible for English instruction:
- The student has received the major part of their elementary or secondary school instruction in English in Canada;
- A brother or sister completed the majority of his or her elementary or secondary studies in English in Canada;
- A father or mother completed the majority of his or her elementary studies in English in Canada;
- A father or mother attended school in Québec after August 26, 1977, and could have been declared eligible for instruction in English at that time
A student who satisfies (or has a parent or sibling who satisfies) one of these criteria can generally receive a Certificate of Eligibility.
Alternative Education in Montreal, Quebec
While many students thrive in Canada’s mainstream public school system, there will always be those who need something a little different to captivate their imaginations and spark their intellects. And as technology and globalization produce enormous changes for society, more and more families are looking to alternative education models to prepare their children for an unpredictable future.
Schools based on the philosophies of Maria Montessori and Rudolf Steiner, for example, offer students a greater degree of freedom and independence to explore and discover their own interests. In these classrooms, the children are free to pursue their own passions rather than simply follow a teacher’s instructions.
Democratic pedagogy is also gaining some popularity. These schools, based on the Sudbury model, make student participation and input integral to all aspects of administration and decision making. The focus is on producing world citizens who are actively engaged in solving problems and managing projects. Traditional school subjects take a back seat to core life skills and traits like creativity, curiosity, cooperation, innovation, tolerance and adaptability.
Currently there are no Sudbury schools in Quebec, but there is one Forest School. Forest schools, as the name suggests, emphasize the study of nature. Most of the day is spent outdoors in the natural environment, observing and playing.
Now let’s take a look at some of the specific options that you’ll find in Montreal, including various schools that employ different methods of education. We’ll also talk about homeschooling, another possibility for children living in Canada.
Montessori Schools in Montreal
Academie Maria-Montessori: A French language Montessori school for children of all ages.
12755 16e Avenue, Montréal (514) 382-2112
Bright Hearts Montessori: Private Montessori daycare and more, for ages 3 months to 5 years.
333 Boulevard Decarie, Suite 323, St. Laurent (514) 744-2220
Ecole Montessori de Montreal: A trilingual school for students in preschool through grade 6.
1501 Serre Street, LaSalle, QC (514) 363-6603
Ecole Montessori International de Montreal: Trilingual education for students age 18 months to 12 years.
10025 Boul. Acadie, Montreal (514) 331-1244
Ecole Montessori Ville-Marie: A bilingual school for students 3 to 6 years old.
760 St Germain St, Saint-Laurent (514) 335-6688
Garderie et Jardin d’Enfants Montessori: A network of five schools in the Montreal area, including Outremont, Town of Mount Royal, Greenfield Park, Beaconsfield and Nun’s Island.
Imagination Preschool & Nursery: A bilingual, independent preschool for children aged 18 months to 5 years, and a nursery for children less than 18 months. With three locations in the Montreal area.
Imagination Duke • 351 Boulevard Robert-Bourassa, Montréal (514) 789-0656
Imagination West • 1040 Lacasse (corner of Richelieu) Montréal (514) 419-9939
Imagination DIX30 • 7200, Boul. du Quartier, Suite 200 Brossard (450) 904-7200
Le Nid des Petits Montessori: Montessori daycare facility.
4838 Avenue Papineau, Plateau-Mont-Royal (438) 492-1804
Orchard House: English language Montessori school with two locations in the Greater Montreal Area.
4176 Grand Boulevard, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (514) 483-6556
159 Place Frontenac (514) 630-3993
West Island Montessori Academy: Primarily English language Montessori preschool and kindergarten for ages 18 months to 5 years.
10432 Goun Blvd., West, Roxboro (514) 684-3733
Waldorf (Steiner) Schools in Montreal
Rudolph Steiner School of Montreal: The home of French Waldorf education in Montreal. Waldorf education cultivates three principal faculties in children: thinking, feeling and willing.
4855, Av. Kensington (514) 481-5686
Forest Schools in Quebec
Chelsea Forest School: A bilingual registered charity that strives to create a community of resilient, active children, empowered by valuing, enjoying and being curious about their natural and social surroundings. Serving children ages 3-10.
23 Cecil Rd. Chelsea, QC (819) 598-3133
Homeschooling in Montreal and Quebec
Homeschooling is legal throughout Canada following certain regulations. Residents of Quebec must obtain a permit in order to homeschool. Quebec has compulsory schooling, in accordance with the Education Act, but families may apply for exemption if they prefer to provide an appropriate education at home.
Stricter guidelines on homeschooling went into effect in July 2019, requiring families to follow the provincial curriculum more closely. Many complain that these requirements present an unnecessary restriction on their personal freedom, especially those who chose to homeschool for religious reasons.
The French language laws that apply to anyone attending school in Quebec do not apply to those who homeschool. In other words, if you wish to homeschool in English rather than French, there’s no need to apply for a Certificate of Eligibility.
Canada is a very civilized nation that provides a free, world-class education to all its citizens. Canada also grants its citizens the right to pursue alternative models of education. After all, a school system that’s designed to serve every student equally, will inevitably do a better job for some students than others. So if your child needs a different style of education to make his or her wheels spin, you you find plenty of options throughout Canada and in Montreal in particular. Even if you’d prefer to teach your children at home, you are entitled to that option as well.
To learn more about alternative education models for the 21st century, check out these interesting resources:
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash