What should I do if high school courses in Canada are too difficult to keep up with?


Differences in middle school curriculum between China and Canada

With the trend of younger students studying abroad, more and more students choose to study in high schools overseas, with Canada’s middle school students accounting for the highest proportion. This is not only because the Canadian society is generally stable and safe, and the people are friendly and welcoming, but also because most schools in Canada (from kindergarten to university) are open to international students and provide a variety of choices, including public, private and church secondary schools. Tuition fees in Canada are low, living costs are relatively reasonable, and the overall cost-effectiveness is extremely high.


Although many students choose to study abroad in order to study in a relaxed environment, what is the actual situation? Indeed, compared to China, Canadian middle schools usually end school at 3 or 4 p.m., have relatively less homework, and do not have as much pressure as the college entrance examination. However, it is important to note that while the first two years of middle school and high school are relatively easy, once you enter grades 11 and 12, the academic difficulty increases. In particular, grade 12 scores are crucial to college applications. Failure may result in losing the opportunity to enter a prestigious school.


In general, if you choose to study in Canada for secondary school, you can indeed enjoy a relatively relaxed learning environment, but students must also realize that they need to put in more effort at the critical stage to ensure their competitiveness for future studies.

Difference 1: Most international students need to take ESL courses

When enrolling in a public or private secondary school in Canada, students are usually required to take an entrance test covering subjects such as English and mathematics. The results of these tests will determine the student's entry grade and arrange corresponding courses based on the results, including ESL (English as a Second Language) and academic courses. It also means test scores directly impact a student's academic progress, potentially resulting in skipping a grade or taking longer to graduate.


ESL courses are specially designed for students who speak English as a second/foreign language. They are divided into different levels (AO/BO/CO/DO/EO) and are suitable for learners whose native language is not English. For example, if students test at the CO level, they may need to take ESLCO, ESLDO (equivalent to 9th grade English), ESLEO (equivalent to 10th grade English) before entering 11th and 12th grade English courses. Ultimately, students need to complete English courses in grade 12 and use their scores to apply to college.

It is worth noting that what is mentioned here is the order in which students receive English courses, not just English scores to apply to universities. For students in grade 9 or 10, there is enough time to take relevant courses. However, for students in grades 11 and 12, English test scores will play a key role in the length of high school study abroad. Therefore, planning ahead and working hard to improve your English is crucial for students during their future study abroad journey.

Difference 2: Subject courses are divided into elective courses and compulsory courses

In addition to ESL, there are compulsory courses and elective courses. From the perspective of further education, students who want to obtain the formal Ontario High School Diploma OSSD must meet the following three conditions:

1) Complete 30 credits (Credit), including 18 compulsory credits and 12 elective credits.

2) Pass the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT: Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test)

3) Complete at least 40 hours of community involvement activities

Difference 3: Admission to higher education is mainly based on grades in grade 12

From the perspective of further studies, universities are most concerned about students’ grades in grade 12, and different majors have different course requirements. Taking the most popular business major as an example, if a student wants to apply for a business major in a university, then the university will look at 12th-grade English (ENG4U), functions (MHF4U), calculus and vectors (MDM4U), data management (MDM4U), accounting ( BAT4M), Business (BBB4M), Business Leadership (BOH4M), the following letters are course codes. Each school has slightly different course requirements. In addition, if you fail the course, it will have a certain impact on your admission to a prestigious school. Therefore, students will not feel relaxed in grade 12.

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