As mentioned in the about section, high-schools across Toronto offer a variety of educational streams that students may enroll in. This can be on its own or in tandem with another stream. The high-school where I graduated from is no stranger to this as it offers a range of streamlines. The following list mentions just a handful of the numerous programs offered across different school boards. I will mention in detail if my school (Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute) offers any one of the programs listed.
- Academic Streamline
- Applied Streamline
This is the first of the two most common modes of education provided at all public high-schools across Ontario. The academic streamline consists of courses that emphasize theory and abstract reasoning to teach subjects. Starting from grades 9 and 10 students are able to take academic courses which then serve as a pre-requisite to take university courses in grades 11 and 12. Taking academic courses in grades 9 and 10 however also allows students to take college courses in grades 11 and 12 instead of university courses but the majority of students in this streamline choose either university courses or a combination of university and college courses.
This is the second of the two most common modes of education provided at all public high-schools across Ontario. The applied streamline consists of courses that focus on practical applications (hands-on activities) and concrete example. Starting from grades 9 and 10 students are able to take applied courses which then serve as a pre-requisite to take college courses in grades 11 and 12. It should be noted however that unlike academic students, applied students do not have the freedom to choose between university and college courses.
The difference between these courses can be seen through the courses description for grade 9 math as stated in the Ontario curriculum.
The description for the Principles of Mathematics, Grade 9, Academic reads: “This course enables students to develop an understanding of mathematical concepts related to algebra, analytic geometry, and measurement and geometry through investigation, the effective use of technology, and abstract reasoning”.
The description for the Foundations of Mathematics, Grade 9, Applied reads: “This course enables students to develop an understanding of mathematical concepts related to introductory algebra, proportional reasoning, and measurement and geometry through investigation, the effective use of technology, and hands-on activities.“
These courses are denoted by a “U” on the 5th place of the course outline and focus on details that prepare you with the knowledge and skills you need to meet the entrance requirements for university programs.
These courses are denoted by a “C” on the 5th place of the course code and focus on details that prepare you with the knowledge and skills you need to meet the entrance requirements for most college programs, apprenticeship and training programs.
These courses are denoted by a “M” on the 5th place of the course code and satisfy pre-requisites for both university and college and prepare you with the knowledge and skill set you need to meet the entrance requirements for specific program offered at both.
These courses are denoted by an “O” on the 5th place of the course code and can be taken by students in any year provided they have the space to accommodate a course in their schedule. The courses broaden your knowledge and skills in a subject. Open courses may not be tailored for specific requirements of universities, colleges, or the workplace.
These courses are denoted by an “E” on the 5th place of the course code courses prepare you with the knowledge and skills you need to meet the expectations of employers or the requirements for admission to certain apprenticeship and other training programs.
(Talented Offerings for Programs in the Sciences)
TOPS is an enriched 4 year program offered at two high-schools in Toronto, Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute and Bloor Collegiate Institute with Marc Garneau being the host school. TOPS courses pay special emphasis to Science, Math and English. It is considered to be a prestigious program and has lived up to its expectations by producing outstanding graduates. Students in this program take around 2/3rd of their classes with each other while the other 1/3rd of their classes are left up to the students to decide as it includes a choice of numerous elective courses where they might study with academic/applied students.
The courses offered in TOPS are generally considered to be more “difficult” as they cover a lot of advanced material within a short period.
To be considered for TOPS, students need to apply while they are in grade 8 and have to submit documents including their grade 7 report card and a student profile form. Students then write an entrance examination. It is to be noted that only a handful of students are chosen to be a part of the TOPS program each year.
It is also possible to apply for the TOPS program in grade 10 provided that vacancy is available due to students transferring out of the program.
This program can be considered as a school within a school.
(Specialist High Skills Majors Program)
SHSM lets students focus on a career path that matches their skills and interests as well meet the requirements of the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD). Completion of the program is denoted by a red seal on the diploma.
Students complete a set of 8-10 courses in their selected field, earn valuable certifications such as first aid and CPR and gain important skills on the job through cooperative education (this is mentioned in detail later) placements.
Even though SHSM courses are for grade 11 and 12 students who are heading for college, university or the workplace, some schools such as Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute offer advanced courses that spread the SHSM program over more years. This reduces the burden on students going into their senior high-school years.
SHSM students have the opportunity to gain important specialized skills with actual employers, go to professional training centers, take part in Skills Canada competitions, tour different post-secondary institutions and obtain information on programs and facilities etc. The program is also approved by the ministry and supported by colleges and universities.
Few examples of sectors where SHSM is available include:
- Health and Wellness
- Information and Communications Technology
- And much more…
(Business and Social Action Program)
BSAP is a competitive four year academic program offered at Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute that focuses on business studies. Initiated in 2010, it is intended to bring students together who are committed to social action and business ventures. Its courses are related to Accounting, Finance, International Business, Marketing, Business Leadership, Entrepreneurship etc. However, students are not restricted to taking only business and/or social science courses.
If students complete 4 or more business studies courses, it earns them a TDSB Business Studies Certificate when they graduate.
To take part in this program students need to pass an entrance exam held at Valley park Middle School.
BSAP students have garnered immense success. These include:
- Competing and winning the Stock Market Challenges (Laurier University & JA).
- Placing in top 5 in DECA internationals.
- Competing and winning the Banks in Action (JA).
- And more…
AP is a program offered in the United States and Canada created by the College Board (the makers of the SAT). The program offers college-level curricula and examinations to high-school students. Many universities recognize students who achieve high marks in AP exams by offering a grant placement or course credit as it is considered a sign that you are capable of handling college-level work and thus it strengthens your college applications immensely. Many high standing universities, especially in the United States recommend taking AP classes if one’s high-school offers them.
Not all schools in Canada offer AP classes and/or examinations. Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute for example offers AP classes and exams. In most cases you have to take pre-requisite courses before you can sign-up for an AP class. There is always a cost associated with these tests but schools offer subsidies and College Board also has financial aid.
AP offers courses in Math and Computer Science, Sciences, English, World Languages and Cultures, Arts etc.
AP tests are scored on a 1 to 5 scale as follows where any score greater than or equal to 3 is considered to be passing:
- 5 – Extremely well qualified
- 4 – Well qualified
- 3 – Qualified
- 2 – Possibly qualified
- 1 – No recommendation
Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute offers AP examinations to students outside of the school provided a student currently enrolled in Marc Garneau CI is also writing the same exam.
IB is an international educational foundation that offers four educational programs of which three are offered by the TDSB, the IB Diploma Program for students aged 16-19, the IB Middle Years Program, designed for students aged 11-16, and the IB Primary Years Program for children aged 3-12. The IB Career-related program is currently not offered.
The Diploma Program is offered for the high-school level in grades 11 and 12. This demanding 2 year curriculum leading to final examinations and a qualification is welcomed by leading universities around the world.
The Diploma program gives students first year university credits and is recognized worldwide. The program is academically rigorous. Students are required to study English, a second language, math, science, social science, arts and theory of knowledge. Students also need to commit 150 hours towards volunteer service, arts and sports.
IB is centered on academic excellence and achievements in sports and arts and as such prepares students for challenges during university anywhere in the world.
Students need to pass an entrance examination to be enrolled in the program. This usually includes a Math Entrance test, a 500 word application essay and copies of final grade 7 and interim grade 8 report cards. If successful, students are invited for an interview with a parent/official guardian where they will be further asked to discuss the content of his/her essay, interests and future plans.
It is also possible to apply to the program in grade 10. Students must complete their essay and application forms and book an interview where they must bring their Grade 8 and 9 report cards.
(English as a Second Language)
For many new immigrant students English is not their first language and even though they are able to read and write in their first language, the same does not hold true for English. English as a second language (ESL) programs help students integrate and inculcate smoothly into the school so that they may take part fully in the curriculum and school life and achieve the high levels of literacy that is expected of all students.
ESL classes in general teach students English using the four language skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing. The classes are offered at different levels translating to literacy, beginner, intermediate and advanced.
ESL Level 1 (ESLAO)
This course introduces students to the English language using basic English language structures, simple sentence patterns; read short texts and write phrases. It helps them adjust to the diversity in their new environment.
ESL Level 2 (ESLBO)
This course makes students take part in conversations in structured situations. It expands their previous knowledge of English grammatical structures and sentence patterns; and helps link short text to compose paragraphs.
ESL Level 3 (ESLCO)
This course further extends a students skills in the four language skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening. Students make short oral presentations, read a variety of texts in English and expand their academic vocabulary.
ESL Level 4 (ESLDO)
This course helps students increase their fluency and accuracy in social situations. Listening and speaking skills are extended through participation in discussion and seminars; studying and interpreting a variety of texts. Students also engage in writing narratives, articles and summaries in English.
ESL Level 5 (ESLEO)
This is the last level in the ESL course which aids students with the necessary skills to transition to college and university programs. Debates, classroom workshops, writing essays, narratives and reports constitute just a little of what is carried out in this course.
Cooperative Education is a ministry-approved program that allows students to earn secondary school credits while completing a work placement. Students may choose 2 or 4 credits (morning, afternoon or full day) which count as 2 of their compulsory courses and/or optional credits. The program is for secondary students who are heading for apprenticeship, college, university or the workplace.
Co-op offers valuable work experience, professional references, possible part-time/summer employment, “Test-drive” career options and experience hands-on learning.
Co-op is offered in all possible future pathways including university, college, apprenticeship and the workplace.
A student may also attend college while in coop and add a post-secondary credit to their diploma through dual credits.
Dual Credits programs are in conjunction with various colleges and offer:
- Free enrolment in a college course.
- Attending college one afternoon per week while in afternoon coop.
- One college credit and one extra high-school credit in addition to the coop credits.
A student may also register with the Ontario College of Trades while in high-school. It includes 4 sectors of trade, Motive, Service, Construction and Industrial. These specialized programs are available attached to community college programs.
In grades 9-12 students have the opportunity to continue Core French, Extended French and French Immersion studies.
Core French is offered to all students in elementary school and high-school. Students who complete 4 credits (grades 9-12) in Core French qualify for a Certificate of Achievement in Core French.
If students complete 7 credits in French (4 credits in Extended French and 3 credits in subject courses where the language of instruction is French) they qualify to receive the Certificate of Bilingual Studies (Extended French).
Those students who complete 8 or more courses qualify for the Honours Certificate of Bilingual Studies (Extended French).
If students complete 10 credits in French (4 credits in Extended French and 6 credits in subject courses where the language of instruction is French) they qualify to receive the Certificate of Bilingual Studies (French Immersion).
Those students who complete 11 or more courses qualify for the Honours Certificate of Bilingual Studies (French Immersion).
How to enroll?
TDSB students currently studying French in grade 8 are guaranteed access to secondary school Extended French and French Immersion programs but students who wish to attend a TDSB secondary school may or may not be guaranteed admission into Extended French or French Immersion based on the following criteria:
- Available space
- Equivalent background in French
There are 12 secondary schools across TDSB that offer Extended French and 10 secondary schools that offer French Immersion. 9 of the schools that offer French Immersion also offer Extended French.