10 Sep Teacher helping students in classroom of private high school Toronto.

What’s The Difference Between A Public High School and Private High School?

We all want what’s best for our children, and when it comes to education — it’s no different. High school are some of the most formative years in your child’s academic career and picking the right one is crucial to helping ensure their success, especially leading up to post secondary school. The two options? Enrolling in a public or private high school in Toronto.

While they have a lot in common, there are key differences between both institutions that could benefit child over the other. To help you understand which one is best for you, here’s how we compare public and private high schools:

Tuition Costs

The main difference between public and private schools in Toronto is the price tag associated with sending your child to a private one. Unlike public schools, which are publicly funded by local tax dollars, in order for your child to attend a private high school, they’ll have to pay the tuition fee. The cost depends on the school and can start anywhere between a couple thousand dollars and go as high as $70,000 a year. Keep in mind that this number typically doesn’t cover the cost of school supplies or homestay programs for international students.

While this may deter many parents from enrolling their child into a private high school, they’ll be happy to know that there are many scholarship opportunities, especially for students with outstanding academic performance, that can help lower that price tag. For example, at Cestar High School we offer domestic students an entrance scholarship of up to $4,000 based on academic averages of 85% or above. They’ll have to submit additional paperwork in order to qualify such has transcripts and letters of recommendation which are later reviewed by the awards committee.

The moral of the story? Although tuition prices of some private schools may be steep, there are financial options out there to help alleviate costs. And because tuition costs vary, it’s best to shop around before landing on a specific school.

Shared Values

Those who attend a public high school typically have very little say on the situation as the high school your child goes to greatly depends on the area they live in. Most often than not, students have to attend the high school that’s closest to them.

On the other hand, in the private sector — parents typically send their child to a school based on their interests and values. This can be anything from religious based schools, Montessori or all boys and girl schools. Why is this important? Some families want the additional assurance to know that their child is learning in an environment they support with certain values, philosophies and ideologies weaved into the curriculum.

Class sizes in private high schools in Toronto are much smaller than public ones.

Class Sizes

The average class size in the public high school sector in Ontario is about 22 students, but can fluctuate higher depending on the student population in that particular high school. When it comes to private high schools, class sizes are typically much smaller — which means there’s less distractions for students to come by and greater focus on learning. Because of this, teachers are also better equipped to adjust to the various learning styles in the room and ensure that they understand the concepts to the best of their abilities.

Parental Involvement

It’s important that all parents are involved in their child’s education, no matter what type of high school they go to. With that said, private high schools actually create an environment that encourages parents to take a very active role in their child’s academic life.

The communication channels between parents and administration are always open and outside the regular parent-teacher interviews, private high schools actually give parents a lot more opportunities to get involved with the school. From various committees to social events, this all helps give parents peace of mind and assurance by knowing exactly what’s going on in their child’s life. It also reinforces the idea that they play a key role in their education and success, which educators want to support.


Because public high schools are publicly funded and have to cater to a wider audience of students with diverse backgrounds, the curriculum is set and stone. This is definitely not the case for private high schools in Toronto, who can adjust their curriculum to align with their mission and values. Because they’re privately funded by parents and donors, they aren’t obligated to adhere to the province’s restrictions or limitations and free change up the curriculum how they see fit.

While private schools don’t need the approval of local governing bodies, they do generally need to seek the approval of parents when changes are made to the curriculum to ensure everyone is in accordance with it.

Unlike public schools, private high schools in Toronto offer smaller class sizes

Hands-On Teaching Staff

Looking after 20+ students is a lot of work for a public high school teacher. Besides teaching the lessons and trying to ensure that students are able to follow, they’re also managing personalities and behaviours which can be overwhelming and stressful, especially with a large and rowdy classroom. Because of this, students are less likely to receive the specialized support they need — they either keep up or they don’t, which can greatly impact their marks. Of course it’s not all gloom and doom for public school teachers, but they do deal with challenges private school staff do not.

For private school teachers, because class sizes are small, not only are classes more manageable and less stressful on the educators, they’re able to provide more dedicated support to each student and cater to their specific learning styles.

At the end of the day, what’s best for one child isn’t what’s best for all of them. As a parent, you know your child best and the type of support and discipline they need to succeed in secondary school. Just be sure to do your research before diving in and making your final decision.

Still have questions? Contact Cestar High School today to see what makes us different, and how we can help make your child’s future a little bit brighter with our standout curriculum.


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