School Programs

Specialized High School programs in Ontario

School Programs in Ontario

School boards in Ontario provide a rich assortment of special programs for students.

Some programs are Ministry of Education approved, and are available across all school boards in the province. Others are unique to their individual school board.

Here is a summary of some of the course offerings available both provincially and in Halton and Peel regions.

Advanced Placement Program (AP)

The Advanced Placement Program (AP) is a program designed to give high school students a first year college/university course experience. AP courses cover the same curriculum as non-AP grade 12 courses, but with additional content that provides extra academic challenges for students.

Dual Credits

The Dual Credit program is intended to assist high school students in completing their Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) and making a successful transition to college.

Students participate in college or university courses and apprenticeship programs to earn dual credits that count towards their OSSD and their post-secondary diploma, degree or apprenticeship certification. Dual credit students get a taste of college life, learning and a potential career pathway.

English as a Second Language (ESL)

Classes to help people learn English and upgrade their academic and English language skills.

Program includes English as a Second Language (ESL) and English Literacy Development(ELD) support for:

  • students born outside Canada from a non-English speaking country
  • students born in Canada who speak a second language or dialect
  • recently arrived students who need to upgrade or develop their academic and language skills
Peel Region schools

French Language Instruction

French language instruction is provided at three levels.

1.) Core French

All students in grades 4 to 8 study French as a Second Language for 200 minutes per week. Students in Core French develop a basic usable command of French.

In high school, students need one core French language credit to earn their diploma.

2.) Extended French

The Extended French program is another way for students to pursue learning opportunities in French. This program starts in grade 7 and provides another French Immersion opportunity for students.

Students spend half of their school day studying language arts, social studies and science in French. In high school, students take four credits in Extended French and three credits in other subjects taught in French. Upon completion, students in EF receive a Certificate of Extended French Studies at graduation.

3.) French Immersion

French Immersion provides students with an opportunity to learn in the French language.

From grades 1 to 8, FI students spend 50 per cent of their daily instruction learning in French and the other half learning in English. Students work towards achieving French proficiency while continuing to develop English language skills.

From grades 9 to 12, students are required to complete 10 credits in French, including the sequence of four courses in French Immersion and a minimum of six courses in other subjects taught in French.

Upon completion, students in French Immersion receive a Certificate of French Immersion Studies at graduation.

International Baccalaureate Program (IB)

The International Baccalaureate (IB) is a worldwide, nonprofit education program founded to give all students the opportunity to receive an enhanced education with a global outlook.

The IB organization is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. Select schools in Canada are accredited to offer the International Baccalaureate curriculum.

There are four IB educational programs, all of which are intended to develop students’ intellectual, emotional, personal and social skills.

Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP)

The Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) is a Ministry approved province-wide program which offers full-time secondary school students in grades 11 and 12 the opportunity to train as skilled apprentices while still enrolled in high school.

OYAP allows students to complete their Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) while gaining apprenticeship training at the same time. Students will acquire a Certificate of Qualification with journeyperson status in a skilled trade.

An apprenticeship is a hands-on program for people who want to work in a skilled trade and who enjoy learning by doing. More than 156 trade specialties exist, including automotive, construction, manufacturing, and service industries.

Regional Learning Choices Program (RLCP)

Regional Learning Choices Programs (RLCP) is available through the Peel District School Board. It gives students the opportunity to develop and explore skills in a particular area of interest.

The Peel board provides secondary students from across Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon with 11 different secondary RLCPs.

The programs are open to all eligible students. The programs are open to all students, except students who are on a visa. Those here on work or study permits may apply. The entry point for all RLCP programs is grade 9.

Specialized Arts Program & Regional Arts Schools

The specialized arts program is a four-year arts program for students who are committed to exploring and deepening their understanding, skills, and experiences in the arts.

The program offers a package of specialized arts credits (two per year) that count towards the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (O.S.S.D.). Students will receive a certificate upon completion.

Focus can be music, voice, drama, and visual arts. This program is available at designated Regional Arts Schools, including Cawthra Park and Iona in Mississauga, and Mayfield Secondary in Caledon, and St. Roch and St. Thomas Aquinas in Brampton.

Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM)

A Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) program is a ministry-approved specialized program that allows grade 11 and 12 students to focus their learning on a specific sector while meeting the requirements to graduate from secondary school.

SHSM also assists in their transition after graduation to apprenticeship training, college, university or the workplace.


The Strings program is part of the Regional Learning Choices Program (RLCP), and is available at two secondary schools in Peel Region – Central Peel Secondary School in Brampton, and Port Credit Secondary School in Mississauga. It provides students, from beginner to highly advanced, with the opportunity to study a string instrument. Violin, viola, cello, and string bass instruction is offered.

In Conclusion

Ontario provides a rich assortment of specialized programs that can enhance the educational experience of elementary and high school students. Among the courses and programs offered are advanced academics, the arts, and career-oriented special skills job placement opportunities.

Further reading:

School rankings in Mississauga, with school profiles detailing special programs

School rankings in Oakville, with school profiles detailing special programs

School rankings in Brampton

School Programs
Article Name
School Programs
Review and summary of special high school programs in Ontario, including SHSM, OYAP, Dual Credits, French Immersion, RLCP, International Baccalaureate, ESL, Advanced Placement.
Publisher Name
Randy Selzer - Real Estate Agent
Publisher Logo

Compare listings