How Do I Determine the Best Private Schools in Mississauga?
Education Editor, St. Jude’s Academy
Selecting the best private school for your child may seem daunting. The school that a growing child attends influences everything from the child’s core values and personality traits, to work ethic, learning style and socialization. With so many established private schools to sift through, a parent looking for private education has an overwhelming task in front of them — choosing the perfect fit for their unique child. In everyday life, school is the place where a child will likely spend most of their hours outside of home. It’s important that they feel a strong sense of belonging there, not only for their emotional needs, but also for their development into a confident, enthusiastic learner.
When determining the best private schools for your family, consider the following factors:
1. School Culture
Each school is an exclusive environment with different values, traditions, and community involvement. Even something seemingly trivial like school spirt could have a big impact on a student’s experience at school. For this reason, familiarizing yourself with school culture is essential. Once you’ve found a school that aligns with your values and needs, it’ll be worthwhile to tour it. A true feel of the environment is something you can’t always gauge from brochures and magazines. Being inside the school and speaking to school representatives can help significantly when deciding between schools which appear similar on paper and have all of the same practical perks (eg. convenience of location). Finding that personal connection with a school by taking the time to see it and speak to administration and students could be the deciding factor between two schools you’re stuck between. You know best what resonates with you and what your priorities are, so being attentive to school culture is crucial to finding that community where you feel most valued, included and welcomed.
2. Extracurricular Opportunities
With a variety of extracurricular activities available, every student has room to grow into a well-rounded young adult with versatile hobbies and strengths. A school that is truly dedicated to the whole student’s development has a comprehensive selection of opportunities that go beyond academic excellence. Parents choose private education primarily because of quality of teaching staff and classroom instruction, however, unique opportunities foster the “whole student.” Studies consistently show that rounding out a student with extracurricular activities is linked to higher academic success, including success in university. For academic private schools, class curriculum is the top priority, which means that extracurriculars can be underestimated and put on the back burner. Schools that give time and attention to diverse extracurriculars break the stereotype of academically rigorous programs only caring about students’ “book smarts,” and in doing so, give their students a leg-up from their peers in other schools. When comparing private schools to choose from, remember that extracurriculars are a vital part of a wholesome education. Not only should you aim for schools offering familiar extracurriculars that your child enjoys, but you should also recognize the value of versatility. A wide selection of activities encourages a student to discover potential in areas outside of their comfort zone. That said, don’t forget to consider accessibility. In a big school, extracurriculars tend to be more competitive, even with a variety to choose from. Smaller schools with less activities can be more conducive to students’ well-roundedness because they have greater access to opportunities.
A student’s journey takes them from toddler years, developing basic social and fundamental skills, to young adulthood, learning prerequisites to university and life beyond. Children transition through various pivotal stages of life in their education, and it’s important to consider continuity and consistency when judging a school. Continuum schools differ in that they treat the student’s development as one fluid journey, rather than steps advancing students from one grade to the next. For example, an International Baccalaureate (IB) continuum school provides a consistent education program from pre-kindergarten all the way to Grade 12. Curriculum for all age groups is grounded on the same principles of morality, empathy and intercultural understanding, along with a focus on critical thinking, effective learning habits and hands-on activities. With this kind of continuity, students transition seamlessly from one stage of life to the next, develop lifelong skills that become second-nature to them and become part of a tight-knit family as they grow up alongside their peers.
4. Experienced School Faculty and Staff
Behind each student’s success is a team of hard-working teachers and administration cheering them on. Beautiful facilities and advanced curriculum are wonderful to have and certainly conducive to success, but it’s faculty who work to make every school day a meaningful one for students. If the staff of a school aren’t genuine in their passion for teaching or don’t see the value in getting to know each student individually, then students will naturally feel less inspired than if they were taught by enthusiastic, motivating leaders. Although smaller class size is important and a perk of some private schools, experts suggest that it is the teaching staff that is crucial. Ensure that the school you choose is staffed by exceptional, high-calibre teachers, instead of blindly trusting that any private school’s teachers are the best of the best. For example, if you’re interested in IB programs, look for a school whose teachers are IBO World leaders in education. For schools that you’re particularly interested in, go further than to read about the teachers — if you’re stopping by for a tour, inquire about speaking to some teachers. Just like fostering a connection with the school’s values and culture, a connection with the people of the school is important for knowing whether it truly is the perfect fit.
5. University Preparation
Most private schools offer accelerated learning, but not all are intended to comprehensively prepare a student for higher education. Consider choosing a preparatory school if one of your top priorities is a future for your child that includes university. These schools are distinctively designed to build a student’s academic and life skillset for optimal performance in university. Standard private and public schools offer the basic prerequisites for post-secondary education. Preparatory schools emphasize processes of effective learning and inquiry, along with a more rigorous curriculum, to prepare students extensively. Moreover, graduates are accepted and specifically sought after by the highest ranked universities, where they excel. While preparatory schools are not the only ones with academically rigorous programs, they certainly go above and beyond in setting students down a path to success.
Choosing a private school in Mississauga and the GTA can be tough with so many options to weigh. Ultimately, you know your family’s priorities better than anyone else, and only you can compare pros and cons to decide on a school that satisfies what’s most important to your family. For a student, school doesn’t have to be dreaded — it can and should be a place they feel they belong, where they are excited to learn. There’s a perfect school out there for every child, where they can be inspired to confidently make their mark on the world.
St. Jude’s Academy (JK-Grade 12) is the leading private university preparatory and IB School (PYP, MYP, DP) in Mississauga. Our faculty are world leaders in IB education, providing fundamental skills. Phys. Ed, Arts and language specialists nurture the whole student which ensures 100% of our graduates are accepted into their chosen university. Supported by faculty and parents, our students are inspired to confidently make their mark in the world. Visit us at stjudesacademy.com.