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Advanced study programs at private schools

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Advanced study programs can be a great way to help students develop critical thinking skills and earn valuable transfer credits that can be applied towards their post-secondary educations. In Canada, the two common advanced study programs are Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB). There are several other programs that also offer academic and personal benefits to participants. We take a closer look.

Types of advanced study programs

Advanced Placement (AP)

  • Students at private schools that take AP can get an edge by pursuing college-level courses in 22 subject areas ranging from culture and Italian language to chemistry
  • Recognized by universities and colleges, the program allows students to start post-secondary school with first-year course credits under their belt

Duke of Edinburgh

  • A self-directed development program for young people aged 14 to 25 that encourages participation in activities involving community service, personal skill development, physical recreation and adventurous journey
  • Founded in 1956 by Prince Philip, the program encourages participants to challenge themselves, make new friends and achieve personal goals

International Baccalaureate (IB)

  • A rigorous university entrance program that focuses on liberal arts, theory of knowledge, community service and practical learning
  • Embraces a “curriculum without borders” approach that equips students to become responsible citizens and critical, compassionate thinkers who are ready for universities worldwide

International Exchange Programs

  • Available at many private schools that have partnerships with schools worldwide, these experiential-learning and character-building opportunities to live and study in countries internationally help students become engaged citizens of the world
  • Participants develop knowledge about worldwide cultures and lifestyles, make global connections, form deep friendships and cultivate confidence, independence and compassion

Round Square

  • An experiential theory of education that goes beyond college and university preparation by embracing internationalism, democracy, environment, adventure, leadership and service
  • Conventional programs are complemented by exchange programs, work projects, community service and adventures that help students develop courage, generosity, imagination, principle and resolution, and realize their academic, physical, cultural and spiritual aspirations

A closer look at AP and IB

AP takes an à la carte approach, and allows students to choose which AP subjects they would like to enrol in. "With AP, students can work to their own strengths, whether those are singular or multiple," says Lynda Robinson, associate director of AP Canada.

IB programs are more comprehensive. Students are required to take all IB courses, and must complete 150 hours of extracurricular CAS activities (Creativity, Action and Service), which can entail anything from music to sports to volunteer work. They can choose different levels within the IB courses, depending on their strengths in particular subjects. "It's a coherent philosophy," says Marilynne Sinclair, teacher and IB coordinator at Ashbury College in Ottawa. "At Ashbury, we help students put together an IB program that's right for them. It's a very personalized approach."

Both programs are ideal for students who are intellectually curious and perform well academically. "If students aren't challenged, their minds wander," says Robinson. "A good advanced study program allows students to be creative and to become more advanced learners. They're not spoon-fed so much."

Ashbury student Braden decided to enrol in the IB program to improve his chances of getting into universities overseas, like the London School of Economics. Braden just finished Grade 12, and found the IB experience challenging but rewarding. "I find the point of IB is to challenge yourself, so challenge is its raison d'être," he says.

Fellow Ashbury student Sarah, who is in Grade 12, found the transition into IB was easier than she expected. "I thought it was going to be this immense Herculean effort on my part, but it's the same amount of workload," she says. "It does take some adjusting. Teachers don't do as much hand-holding." Braden agrees that the program isn't all consuming. "My social life has evolved throughout IB. It hasn't diminished," he says. "It's been a less radical change than I expected."

AP's Robinson points out that while many parents fear that advanced programs come with demanding workloads, it often isn't the case. "A good teacher knows the difference between different work, not more work," she says. "These students don't need as much drill."

Both Sarah and Braden feel that they'll have a leg up after high school thanks to IB's focus on building critical thinking skills. "It provides very good preparation for further education," says Braden. "I'll ease into university with more confidence."

—Annette Bourdeau

Series: Advanced Study Programs

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List of Advanced study programs at private schools

      School Name Type Cost

    Trinity College School (est. 1865)  

    • Port Hope, Ontario
    • 5 to 12 Coed
    • Day school (300 students)
    • Boarding school (265 students)
    Trinity College School offers programs from grades 5 to 12 in Port Hope. Its average class size is 16 students. [View profile]
    School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto
    • Liberal Arts
    $24,750 to $65,250

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    MiddleSchools HighSchools Coed Boarding Day24750

    Bond Academy (est. 1978)  

    • Toronto, Ontario
    • PS to 12 Coed
    • Day school (350 students)
    • Boarding school (200 students)
    This traditional private school in Toronto offers preschool to grade 12 with average class sizes of 15 students. Facilities include a double gym and more. [View profile]
    School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto
    • Liberal Arts
    $12,500 to $24,500

    Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Coed Boarding Day12500

    Trafalgar Castle School (est. 1874)  

    • Whitby, Ontario
    • 4 to 12 Girls
    • Day school (125 students)
    • Boarding school (85 students)
    Located just 45 minutes east of Toronto, Trafalgar Castle School offers world-class curriculum in a small-school environment that inspires and encourages growth. * Day and boarding * All Girls * Grades 5 to 12 [View profile]
    • Liberal Arts
    $21,995 to $56,950

    MiddleSchools HighSchools Girls Boarding Day21995

    Lynn-Rose Académie (est. 1997)  

    • Mississauga, Ontario
    • JK to 8 Coed
    • Day school (300 students)
    Lynn-Rose Académie offers our signature Extended French Programme beginning in pre-kindergarten [View profile]
    • Progressive
    • International Baccalaureate

    Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools Coed Day14370

    Branksome Hall (est. 1903)  

    • Toronto, Ontario
    • JK to 12 Girls
    • Day school (834 students)
    • Boarding school (66 students)
    Branksome Hall is an all girls school in Toronto, from JK to Grade 12, including 56 boarding students. Tuition ranges from $28,995 to $31,245 for day students. [View profile]
    School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto
    • Liberal Arts
    • International Baccalaureate
    $29,590 to $56,855

    Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Girls Boarding Day29590

    Mentor College (est. 1982)  

    • Mississauga, Ontario
    • JK to 12 Coed
    • Day school (1500 students)
    Mentor College offers programs from junior kindergarten to grade 12 in Mississauga. Its average class size is 16 students. [View profile]
    School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto, Halton-Peel
    • Traditional
    $15,100 to $21,200

    Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Coed Day15100

    St. Michaels University School (est. 1906)  

    • Victoria, British Columbia
    • K to 12 Coed
    • Day school
    • Boarding school
    Independent K-12 boarding & day school in Victoria, BC, Canada focusing on university prep. Find out how a SMUS education can benefit your family. [View profile]
    • Progressive
    $18,500 to $66,100

    Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Coed Boarding Day18500

    Academy for Gifted Children - P.A.C.E. (est. 1993)  

    • Richmond Hill, Ontario
    • 1 to 12 Coed
    • Day school (300 students)
    Academy for Gifted Children - P.A.C.E. is a private school for intellectually gifted students in Richmond Hill, Ontario, from grades 1 to 12. Tuition is $13,000. [View profile]
    School Expo Exhibitor - Toronto
    • Traditional