Exams in Canada
Secondary Focus
There are a variety of diplomas and certificates that students can earn across Canada's high schools, as well as guidance on their future post-secondary options. Georgina Deacon reports.

Highly regarded for their quality, secondary school qualifications earned in Canada give international students a strong base for their post-secondary study and career options. Curriculums vary between institutions, and the Canadian province in which the student studies will also determine the certificate granted at the end of K-12 study.


In Ontario, the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) is offered, and Stephanie Long, Assistant Head of School at Fieldstone King's College School www.fieldstoneschool.org, says there are three main components: academic credits; community involvement activities; and successful completion of the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT). Exams and 'course culminating tasks' (CCTs) are worth 30 per cent of the final mark, with the other 70 per cent derived from course work. More than this, Fieldstone "offers a curriculum that integrates Cambridge [English] learning objectives and assessment strategies into Ministry approved Ontario courses", states Stephanie. This means that in addition to learning university-relevant skills and subjects, students "can take their knowledge further in achieving advanced-level qualifications granted by Cambridge International Examinations (CIE)", she concludes. 


Another school offering the OSSD is Royal Elite International Academy www.royalelite.ca. Kate Agar, Academic Manager, says the school year is divided into three semesters - with the typical two semesters from September until April, and then a third semester of summer courses from May until August - and students take exams at the end of each one. Kate says this gives students as much time as possible to complete their ESL courses as well as the regular programme. She adds, "A typical grade-12 student would take up to four courses in one semester." Students must also pass the OSSLT in order to achieve the requirements for the diploma.


In the Saskatchewan province, no formal diploma is in place - students will graduate at the end of year 12 and the marks that they have gained are accepted for entrance into Canadian universities, says Kim Hoffart, Director, International Student Program, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools www.gscs.ca. "Students write final comprehensive exams at the end of each semester - their prep is the many unit exams that they write throughout the semester in each subject," he adds. The school's main student markets are China, Japan and Mexico, with Spain and Vietnam as their greatest emerging markets.


Provincial exams are taken in British Columbia in order for students to gain the BC Certificate of Graduation, explains Sally Stacey, Marketing Manager, International, at Burnaby School District #41 www.sd41.bc.ca. While the school's main markets are China, Korea, Italy and Brazil, she notes that "Italy has grown exponentially over the past five years". At Regent Christian Academy www.regent.bc.ca, also in BC, Maggie Callander adds, "We have final exams in each subject that are reflected on [the students'] final report card. It is this average, or individual marks, that post-secondary institutions use to calculate an international student's eligibility for admission." Regent also has a career and planning course that students must take to graduate, which includes a post-secondary plan put together in grade 12 outlining a 'plan B', resume, and future goals.


At Island Catholic Schools www.cisdv.bc.ca in BC, Sheri Onushko, Director of International Education, says they have two exams every semester: one mid-term and one final exam per subject. "In the past, we have noticed that our international students really struggle with completing English 11 in one semester, so this year we have made it a full-year class," explains Sheri. "This better prepares them for English 12 and works to improve their writing skills that they will need in post-secondary life." The top five student markets for Island Catholic Schools are China, Mexico, Japan, Vietnam and Korea, and Sheri observes that they have witnessed a marked increase in applications from Vietnam recently.


In Alberta, Paul Stewart, International Student Services Manager at Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division www.rdcrs.ca, says they give short-term/one-year students a school report card for completing the subject final exam, but if students require the full Alberta High School Diploma they will need to undertake provincial exams in the school. Exams take place at the end of each semester, and teachers help to prepare students during the year.




Suzanne Romeiser, Breidenbach Education, Germany


"The Canadian secondary school system is one of a kind offering many innovative courses which meet the needs of every student in today's global world.


Along with that, the Canadian school system aspires to bring out the best in each individual student preparing them for university. 


With this innovative form of education, it brings the Canadian secondary school system into the top ranks of the global educational system making educators and governments from around the globe look to Canada for inspiration.


That is why we at Breidenbach Education are proud to say: We only send kids to secondary schools - and we only send them to Canada."




Post-secondary guidance and advice


While students are studying for exams, schools have extra support in place to help them decide what they want out of their futures. At Burnaby School District #41, Sally Stacey says they have an International Counsellor in their international education office, as well as international student liaison officers, counsellors and careers advisors in-school.


Fieldstone School runs the Fieldstone Mentorship Programme to assist "students in selecting post-secondary options that are appropriate based on individual interests, skills and future goals", says Stephanie Long. At Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division, Paul Stewart says they have the Career and Life Management (CALM) class which is "excellent prep for life after high school". A dedicated academic counsellor helps students at Island Catholic Schools with the "intricacies of international student post-secondary applications", notes Sheri Onushko. Each school that is part of Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools has guidance counsellors and career practitioners which help students with their post-secondary choices, according to Kim Hoffart.


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