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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
  • “School

Delivery Of Learning

Parenting In Canada

  • “Discipline

Gender Expectations

  • “Recreation“/
  • “Careers“/
  • “Academic
  • Washrooms/Change Rooms

School Discipline—It’s the Law

  • Attendance
  • Serious Offenses
  • Illegal Activity

School Day Routines

  • Daily Homework
  • School Timetable
  • Questions to Ask Your Child at the End of the School Day
  • Going to Bed and Waking Up
  • Health

School Programs

  • Helping Children
  • Special Programming
  • Provincial Tests
  • Promotions


  • Type of Assessment
  • Expectations
  • What is Taught?
  • Reporting


  • Aim High
  • College and University
  • Paying for College and University
  • Careers

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