Mastering the Language: Schools Helping ESL Students Thrive


Canadian high schools support international students in unique ways - particularly those needing extra help with English or French language skills. Some schools provide after-school and weekend tutoring; some offer intensive ESL summer programs; while others provide ESL students with an entirely separate, parallel curriculum until they are ready to join the main classrooms.

International students get a head start at St. Margaret’s School (Victoria, British Columbia) with a week-long orientation program and continued ESL tutoring support throughout the year. “As the student’s English ability improves, they can move up through the program at their own pace with the support and challenges tailored to their needs,” explained Communications Coordinator Jennifer van Hardenberg.

Learn English While Making Time for Culture and Fun

Balmoral Hall School’s international student orientation begins with an ESL assessment upon which a personalized ESL program is designed for each student. Students may opt to brush up on their English with an intensive, three-week summer program before beginning the academic school year. The school, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, makes a concerted effort to balance intensive English classes with cultural excursions in Winnipeg, and offers a fun, culturally based ESL program for younger students.

At Balmoral Hall, foreign students are directly integrated into academic classes, but receive extra support from designated ESL tutors. This approach is also taken at Queen Margret’s School (Duncan, British Columbia), where the school feels international students learn English quickly in an immersive environment.

For students preparing to enter an English-speaking high school, summer break presents an excellent opportunity to improve their English. Destination Canada’s multi-week, world class summer programs offer a balance of classroom instruction (with small class sizes), hands-on activities, and day trips to nearby sites. “The student’s English improves and they go home with a better understanding of Canadian culture and with friendships with kids from all around the world,” stated President Brian Pilgrim.

Canada is a diverse country, and its schools are well-versed in meeting the needs of foreign students. A successful study abroad experience begins with becoming confident in the local language, thus allowing students to focus on academics, extracurriculars, and enjoying Canada’s cultural and outdoor opportunities.


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