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Christian versus Catholic schools

Comparing Christian and Catholic schools in Canada

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What’s the difference between Christian and Catholic schools? And which option is better for your child?

Below, we compare Christian to Catholic schools in Canada, in terms of many criteria. We also discuss the main similarities and differences between these schools.

This should help you decide which option, if either, is right for your child. It may also help you decide whether you should pursue a private or public school education, whether Christian or Catholic.

Click here to view a list of Christian schools


Click here to view a list of Catholic schools


Religious denomination

Catholicism is a Christian denomination. Other Christian denominations include Protestantism, Anglicanism, Baptism, Unitarianism, and Methodism.

This means that all Catholic schools are Christian schools, by default. Some Christian schools aren’t Catholics schools, though, since they’re not affiliated with the Roman Catholic church. Instead, they may belong to another sect of Christianity or be a non-denominational Christian school.

Private vs. public options

There are many public Catholic schools in Canada. Despite the separation of church and state, some Catholic schools, in many Canadian provinces, receive full or partial funding from the government. These schools are considered public and are part of the Catholic School Board.

There are no public Christian schools in Canada that aren’t Catholic, though. For instance, there are no public Baptist, Lutheran, Greek Orthodox, or other Christian denominational or non-denominational schools.

There are, though, lots of private Catholic and Christian (non-Catholic) schools to choose from in Canada. This includes Catholic and Christian boarding schools. Parents will need to pay for these schools, unlike public schools. These schools are also unconstrained by provincial guidelines, though many follow them closely.

Approach to religious education

There is a wide variance in the approach to religious education among both Christian and Catholic schools. Some of these schools have many required religious courses, while others have few. Some integrate religious with secular education, while others keep these distinct. This goes for both private and public Christian and Catholic schools.

One difference is that Catholic schools, to a greater or lesser degree, focus on Catholicism in their religious teachings. This may include Catholic doctrines such as the seven holy sacraments of Catholicism, as well as the theology of the body and communion. Christian schools, meanwhile, don’t teach these Catholic doctrines or focus on them much less.

Approach to secular education

Christian and Catholic schools also vary widely in their approach to secular education. They may or may not integrate secular with religious education. And some schools use a more traditional approach to delivering the curriculum, while others use a more inquiry or discovery-based approach.

Normally, though, both Christian and Catholic schools in Canada provide a strong secular education. They offer a wide range of demanding courses, from core subjects, like math, science, and the language arts, to less mainstream offerings, like technology, foreign languages, and music. Indeed, these schools often have a curriculum that surpasses provincial standards.


Christian and Catholic schools both have many great features. If they’re private, they’ll share many of the same benefits of other private schools. This includes small class sizes, individualized learning, dedicated teachers, academic enrichment opportunities, and great resources and extracurriculars.

As faith-based schools, though, Christian and Catholic schools tend to have other unique advantages. This includes intensive religious instruction, a dual-track curriculum (focusing on religious and secular studies), a close-knit community, and a safe and warm school environment. And normally these traits can be found in both private and public Christian and Catholic schools in Canada.


Private Christian and Catholic schools charge fees, and like other private schools, may have other costs not covered by these fees. These schools tend, though, to be on the cheaper side of private school tuition. Many charge between $10, 000 and $20, 000 a year. And some offer substantial subsidies to defray costs.

Public Catholic schools, meanwhile, normally don’t charge tuition. If you send your child to one of these schools, your main costs will be extras like school supplies, after- or before-school programs, lunch programs, and the like. This is one of the unique advantages of the Catholic school system in Canada.

Christian vs. Catholic schools

Main similarities between Christian and Catholic schools

  • Christian principles: Both Christian and Catholic schools teach students Christian/Catholic principles, values, and beliefs. They also teach students how to live by them.
  • Secular education: Both Christian and Catholic schools deliver a strong secular education. They offer a wide range of challenging subjects with a curriculum that normally meets (and sometimes exceeds) provincial standards. The secular curriculum is sometimes integrated with the religious curriculum.  
  • Private school benefits: These schools both have a number of benefits found in many other private schools: e.g., small classes, great teaching, and academic enrichment opportunities. They also tend to have the appealing traits of most other faith-based schools (such as Jewish and Islamic schools): e.g., a dual-track curriculum, strong community, nurturing environment, etc.
  • Private school costs: Private Christian and Catholic schools tend to be less costly than other private schools. Public Catholic schools are normally free.

Main differences between Christian and Catholic schools

  • Denomination: Catholic schools are affiliated with Catholicism and the Roman Catholic church. Christian schools (the way we use this term) are either associated with a different sect of Christianity (e.g., Baptism) or are non-denominational (within Christianity).
  • Private vs. public: There are both private and public Catholic schools in Canada. There are no private or independent Christian schools that aren’t Catholic, though.
  • Religious education: While both schools offer students a rigorous Christian education, Catholic schools focus more on Catholic doctrines. These may include the seven holy sacraments and the theology of the body and communion.

Choosing a school: what’s right for your child?

So, what’s right for your child: a Christian or Catholic school? This will depend on a lot of factors.

If you’re Catholic, you’re more likely to choose a Catholic school, right? Not necessarily. Many Catholic students go to Christian schools and vice versa. And most Christian and Catholic schools admit students who don’t practice either religion.

What’s really important, then?

Consider the features of religious education that mean a lot to you: e.g., form of religious instruction, approach to teaching the bible, religious practices, degree of religiousness, etc. You should also consider the traits that seem integral to any kind of school: e.g., school size, location, cost, community, culture, reputation, etc.

You’ll then want to look at specific schools, and visit and compare them (if you want to compare specific schools one-to-one, visit our compare hub). In the end, the right school, Christian or Catholic, private or public, will address your most pressing needs, goals, and desires.

While there’s no such thing as the perfect school, there is such a thing as a great fit. You should aim to find the best school for you, your child, and your family.  



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