Toronto, ON | Grades 9 - 12 | Shortlist
The Ontario Academy of Technology - OAT has an academic program facing the technologic area. So, if your child wants to study engineering, computer science or some kind of technological subject, this is the right place to do it. Despite this, there are some students that are accepted in science courses and become doctors, for example. The school cultivates an atmosphere that encourages the students to achieve excellence in their knowledge and makes them believe that they can more and more. I have the feeling that since my son started studying at OAT, his sense of responsibility was enhanced and he started facing the challenges with courage because the school provides him strenght to believe that he can do anything he wants since he strives to do so.
As I am taking exclusively math and science courses the work is challenging by design. It isn't easy but it is appropriate given the excellent teaching. There are no outlandish and expensive construction projects, assignments, or weeks full of presentations. The questions fall mostly around the application of the subject, which really helps to ground students in what they are learning. The tests can be tricky but again they are never unfair in their design. Teachers are also really great about part marks so you are always rewarded exactly for the amount of work you put into your learning. Teachers are very reasonable about deadlines and are understanding when you require some extra time to do an assignment right. Test dates are also negotiable for the most part so you always have the time you need to prepare.
The academics were challenging but appropriate. There was competition but it was all friendly and only in order to motivate students to achieve their full potential. Something I learned with OAT was not to settle for a passing grade and that even in a course I am not very good at, I should still work hard and try to surpass my expectations. Having now been at Queen's University for two years, maintaining a 4.2 GPA, I can safely say that OAT helped me have a much more productive mindset. At OAT, I was encouraged to work hard and assured that grades were not a reflection of my ability, rather my effort was. The thing that most prepared me for life after OAT was the independent study ethic. This meant that I was able to experience a University-esque lifestyle, while still having the support of the admin, guiding me along the way.
As the name suggests, OAT focuses on STEM-related fields. I can only comment on the grades 9-11 science and math curriculum and teaching and I feel both are excellent. My sons learned a great deal more from their time at OAT than they were able to do within the public system or at previous, larger private schools. The high standards that my sons were expected to meet were a stretch for them, but the support they received enabled them to make the effort and succeed. The consistency of effort required was very good training for them. It would be great if OAT expanded the fields it focuses on, while still retaining the high standards of instruction. My sons would particularly have appreciated the opportunity for supplementary French tutoring and/or pursuing a French credit.
There seems to be a debate about whether semester schools or non-semestered schools are the better program. At OAT there is a mixture. All subjects are split into 3 semesters except Math and Science which run all year. I think this is a good solution. It is important to keep constant with these subjects, especially at a STEM school. Having only 4 subjects per term is more manageable for my son, he would find 8 at a time overwhelming. We chose OAT for my son because of the focus and specialty in STEM. This was the right decision for him but would not be right for every student. My daughter, for example, is an arts student and will go to a high school with choice in drama, music, art and language. OAT does not have much in the arts and languages. My son has only completed grade 9 so far. I understand in later grades OAT offers AP level classes. I don't believe there are any general level academics offered.