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Canadian Multicultural Education Foundation
Parent Orientation Guide
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Because of the differences between the school system in an immigrant's home country and Canadian school systems, parents may be unsure of the school’s expectations of them and their children. This guide will help to address some of the questions that parents may have about the school system in Canada, and give them the opportunity to address how their parenting role may be different in Canada than it was in their home country.

Before teachers and administrators put expectations on parents regarding their involvement in the child’s education, they need to understand parents’ cultural background as it relates to education. For example, it is unlikely that parents of students from South Sudan will expect to be involved as partners in the education of their child since in South Sudan, the responsibility for children’s education rests solely with the teacher. Also, even when parents in immigrant communities in general develop an understanding of the Canadian system, they may have practical challenges in following through with their new responsibilities. Their literacy and language skills, their home, work and school demands, and/or their lack of access to a computer may prevent them from becoming as fully involved in their children’s education as they may want to be.

* Note: New February 2015:A newly developed Orientation Guide to Canadian Schools for Karen Students includes a font for the Karen Pwyar ka Nyaw language that is not supported in Western internet browsers. Therefore, a copy of the Orientation Guide to Canadian Schools for Karen Students in PDF format can be opened by clicking here.

How to Use This guide

Please consider having this guide available when the student initially comes to register at the school. It may be housed in the general office or in the student services area. Your district in-take centre should also have a copy since parents will usually be accompanied by a settlement worker or interpreter when they visit that centre.

The various points in the guide should be discussed collaboratively, and parents and their children should have the opportunity to ask questions. Parents should receive a copy of the illustrated pages to take home for future reference. This guide could be adapted for use in other provinces or with immigrant families of other cultural backgrounds. If you wish to create your own guide, please keep in mind the following points:

  • Remember to involve members of the cultural community in the guide’s creation.
  • Use plain language. This means avoiding educational jargon, explaining abbreviations, and using short sentences and active voice.
  • Use appropriate illustrations to further explain each point.


Parent Orientation Guide to Canadian Schools

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School/Home Communication

Parent/Teacher Interview

  • Parent teacher interview Parents and teachers are partners in the child’s education.
  • An interview is a chance to discuss your child’s progress in school.
  • The school can provide a translator or you can bring someone you trust to interpret for you.
  • An interview is usually 15 minutes long.

School Fees

  • School feesParents need to pay for bus fees, textbooks and other learning supplies.
  • If you can’t afford to pay these fees, you can talk to the school, and your child can still go to school.
  • You may not have to pay all the fees if you have money problems.


  • homeworkStudents use an agenda to write down their homework. Please check the agenda to see their assignments.
  • If you can’t help your child with homework, check to see if the school has a homework club.
  • Some Sudanese communities provide homework clubs as well.

Letter/Phone Call from School

letter from schoolYou might hear from the school when

  • there are important forms for you to sign
  • they have concerns about your child
  • your child is absent at school, and the office hasn’t heard from you.
Delivery of Learning


  • textbooks Students DON’T always get a textbook for every subject.
  • Students keep assigned textbooks for the school year.
  • Students MUST return textbooks at the end of the year in good condition. If they do not, they will have to pay for the textbook.

Other Learning Tools

  • other learning toolsStudents use binders to organize learning materials and carry them into the classroom.
  • Students are encouraged to organize their binders regularly.
  • While a computer at home is very helpful to your child’s learning, they DON’T have to have a personal laptop or other devices such as an I-Pod or cell phone.

Teaching Styles

  • teaching styles Students do not just memorize facts.
  • Teachers encourage creative thinking and questions.
  • Students often work in groups to complete assignments and projects.
  • Boys and girls work together and are treated equally.

English Language Learning (ELL)

  • English language learning ELL students need up to 7 years to become academically successful in English.
  • Students may access additional, free ESL help outside school in a public library or community church.
Parenting in Canada

Family Time

  • Family timeCanadians value family time.
  • Families often have dinner together.
  • Parents spend time doing activities with their children, at home and in the community.

Discipline at Home

  • Discipline at home Physical punishment is illegal at school and at home.
  • Parents set limits at home, and children have to take responsibilities for their mistakes.

Family Responsibilities

  • family responsibility Children are encouraged to share family chores such as cleaning up rooms, lawn mowing, and snow shoveling.
  • It’s illegal to keep children at home to baby-sit younger siblings on school days.

Traditional Vs. Canadian

  • traditional vs Canadian Canada is proud of its cultural diversity.
  • As a family, you can keep some important family traditions, and learn some new Canadian ways.
  • Successful immigrant children embrace both their old and their new culture’s norms and values.
Gender Expectations



  • Girls and boys both have options to play all sports or take up any hobby. Boys and girls participate together.
  • Team sports require separation of boys and girls as they get older. Boys’ size and strength requires this for safety.


  • careersGirls and boys are encouraged to take up careers. This means delaying marriage.
  • Careers are for both boys and girls.
  • Both men and women hold positions of authority
  • Presently, more girls than boys attend post-secondary education.

Academic Success for Boys & Girls

  • Academic SuccessGirls and boys are encouraged to stay in school and to achieve the highest level of education possible.
  • Academic success, as well as homemaking and child raising skills, are important for both girls and boys.

Washrooms/Change Rooms

  • Washroom Girls and boys should use their own washrooms and change rooms.
  • Most public washrooms and change rooms will be marked with a sign or picture that shows a man or a woman.
School Discipline—It’s the Law


  • attendanceGirls and boys must attend school daily until they are 17 years old.
  • School administration must report problems with attendance to a special board.
  • Missing school can result in a large fine for the parents for each day missed.
  • If your child can’t go to school, phone the school.

Serious Offenses

  • serious offences Fighting, bullying, smoking and skipping school are considered serious.
  • Repeated or serious problems may result in the student being suspended from school.

Illegal Activity

  • illegal activity Drugs are illegal in Canada. Use of alcohol is illegal at school. If your child is using, selling or keeping drugs, the police will be called. Parents will be called to meet with police at school.
  • Illegal involvement with gangs (groups of people who move drugs or steal) will be dealt with at the school by a police officer.
  • Parents will be called immediately.
  • If a student is breaking the law, they will be suspended and possibly removed from the school.
  • If a student is fined, the parent is responsible to pay.
School Day Routines

Personal Belongings

  • personal belongings Children carry their books in a backpack.
  • Children bring a healthy lunch and snacks to school in their backpack.
  • Parents should check the backpack for important papers and homework assignments from school.

Movement in School

movement in school

Grade K-6
Students keep their backpacks and coats in a coat room in the classroom.

Grade K-6
Students stay in one room most of the day.

Grade 7-12
Students have lockers for their belongings. Students go from room to room for different classes. Teachers usually stay in one classroom.

Prepare for Class

  • prepare for classStudents are responsible to get to each class on time.
  • Children come to school before school starts.
  • Students must come to class with their books and homework ready.
  • If students don’t understand something, they should ask the teacher for help. Teachers want them to ask questions.

Daily Homework

  • daily homework Your child should do homework every day. They should work on large assignments over a few days or sometimes weeks.
  • Not all homework is for marks. If there is no assigned homework, your child should review notes or read.

School Timetable

school timetable(?)

Questions to Ask Your Child at the End of the School Day

questions to ask your child(?)

Going to Bed and Waking Up

going to bed and waking up(?)



School Programs

Helping Children

  • helping children There are programs in schools and communities to help young children get ready for kindergarten.
  • If children have not been able to go to school in their countries, there are literacy classes to help them fill the gaps in their education.

Special Programming

  • special programming If a student does not achieve well in grades 1 to 5, special programming is available to assist the student to catch up and to succeed.
  • If the school asks for special programming for your child, you should ask WHY. The purpose is to help your child catch up.
  • If special testing is required you will be asked to sign consent forms. The testing is necessary and will assist the school in correctly assessing your child.

Provincial Tests

  • provincial tests In Alberta, provincial tests are in the spring of Grades 3, 6, 9, and 12.
  • The Grade 9 test marks help decide the student’s high school courses.
  • The Grade 12 test marks are used for college entrance.
  • Marks of 75% or higher mean that your child has more academic options.


  • promotions Each year a student progresses from grade to grade.
  • Teachers look at report cards and provincial tests to make course plans with you and your child.

Type of Assessment

Type of assessment

  • Written assessments (writing assignments and exams)
  • Oral assessments
  • Group work
  • Presentations
  • Peer assessments (student assess each other)
  • Self-evaluations (students assess their own work)



  • Students are not ranked in the classroom. Teachers do not compare children in the classroom.
  • Teachers ask students to achieve to the best of their ability and a little beyond.

What is Taught?

what is taught

  • All of Alberta has a standard curriculum. It is completed in 12 years of school.
  • All children are expected to take English, Social Studies,
  • Sciences, Mathematics, Physical Education and optional courses.
  • Children are expected to be competent in that level of the curriculum for each year.


  • reporting You will receive report cards several times each year. They have marks and comments from the teacher about your child. If you have questions, contact the school.
  • Talk to your child about the report card. Then sign it and send it back to the school if your school requires this.
  • At the end of June, you will receive a copy of the final report card.

Aim High

  • aim high In senior high school each course is worth credits. Graduating students must have at least 100 credits. This means they must take 25-30 courses over three years.
  • Courses include English, Social Studies, Sciences, Math, Physical Education, Career and Life Management, and options.

College and University

  • college and universityStudents can complete the high school diploma requirements at high school or as adults at a community college.
  • Students need at least a 70% average in 5 academic subjects for college entrance.
  • English 30.1 is used for entrance to many college programs.

Paying for College and University

paying for college and university

  • College and university fees cost several thousand dollars. Textbooks and other materials are also very expensive.
  • Students can work part time and go to school part time. Students can also apply for scholarships and loans.


  • careers In Canada, all careers are valued. Trades courses and professional courses are studied at college.
  • Trades certificates are often earned on the job.
  • Trade professionals are well respected and well paid.


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