The region of Kitchener-Waterloo is a diverse and multicultural hub, particularly when it comes to those who speak Canada’s second official language.
According to the 2016 StatsCan census, over ten thousand Francophone Canadians call the Kitchener-Waterloo region home. Over 5800 residents of Waterloo identified French as their first official language spoken, and almost 5500 residents in Kitchener acknowledge French as their mother tongue.
For families looking for something French-centric for their school-aged children, the twin cities region provides schools that cover different age ranges and educational levels. Options range from full on Francophonic, to split-bilingual or even French Immersion within an otherwise Anglophonic setting.
Here are the top three schools in Waterloo region that offer French education.
Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate and Vocational School (Public)
Located at 787 King Street West in the downtown core of Kitchener, the Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate and Vocational School, or KCI, offers the bustling location and diverse experience of being located in the geographical heart of the city.
The school was originally founded in 1855 and known at its inception as the Berlin Grammar School. Over a century and a half later, KCI’s convenient central location attracts an approximate 1500 students every school year.
While KCI offers English-primary education, its Languages department offers a full French education experience backed by a comprehensive and in-depth French Immersion program alongside an Extended French program.
Both schedules are available for high school aged students entering Grade 9 and continuing through to Grade 12 graduation, and while students enrolled in either program attend the same classes they are judged on separate credit systems.
Extended French is set-up so that students who complete it will be able to function completely in a Francophone community, and accept gainful employment anywhere that French is the “working language”.
Meanwhile, French Immersion is geared towards pursuing post-secondary education that is taught exclusively in French, expanding higher learning options for students eyeing college or university.
The program goes as far as to have French Immersion participants spend two weeks in a student exchange with their contemporaries from the city of Montpellier in southern France, where they receive a full and authentic French experience that gives practical viewpoints to their textbook education.
As an added positive KCI also focuses on life outside of strict academics, offering students a wide range of extracurriculars to enhance their worldview. There are currently a total of thirty-one different Activities and Athletics Clubs offered including, of course, French Club.
18 WHITEHAVEN Lane, Kitchener, N2H0B3
18 WHITEHAVEN Lane, Kitchener, Ontario N2H0B3More
9 SHEPHERD RD, Whitby, L1M1G8
9 Shepherd Road, Whitby, Ontario L1M1G8More
234 WEBER ST E, Kitchener, N2H1G1
234 Weber Street, Kitchener, Ontario N2H1G1More
108 BROADOAKS DR, Cambridge, N1T0A9
108 Broadoaks Drive, Cambridge, Ontario N1T0A9More
514 OXBOW Road, Waterloo, N2K1Y6
514 OXBOW Road, Waterloo, Ontario N2K1Y6More
144 JANSEN Avenue Unit# 11, Kitchener, N2A2L7
144 JANSEN Avenue, Kitchener, Ontario N2A2L7More
15 WILLARD Avenue, Cambridge, N1R5N2
15 WILLARD Avenue, Cambridge, Ontario N1R5N2More
7 SANDYBAY Avenue, Kitchener, N2A0H7
7 SANDYBAY Avenue, Kitchener, Ontario N2A0H7More
Kitchener-Waterloo Bilingual School (Private)
With an outside-the-box approach to adding French to education, KWBS is located at 600 Erb Street West in Waterloo, in the historic neighbourhood of Rummelhardt. The modern school that was built in 1999 sits next to the heritage historical site of the original Rummelhardt village schoolhouse, which still stands today on school property.
Opened in 1966 in response to the lack of French Immersion education in the Ontario public school system, KWBS operates as an independent non-profit school. They offer bilingual English-French education in a tight-knit setting that gives attention to each student. Class sizes average at twenty students each and feature two teachers per classroom from a total faculty staff of fourty.
This allows none of its annual 360-plus students to be lost in the shuffle. The school is unique in its promotion of a “family-style” structure that teaches teamwork and community amongst students.
This is accomplished through a “School House System”, where students from Grades 3 to 8 are distributed throughout ten separate “schoolhouses” and the eldest students offer mentorship and collaborative learning opportunities to new additions that help foster communal atmosphere and camaraderie.
The school also integrates a technological approach to their curriculum as they see students growing up in the age of the smartphone and tablet. KWBS focuses on gradual incorporation of information tech and operates on an age-appropriate system.
Classrooms feature interactive whiteboards and digital projectors as well as a Google Chromebook lab for students as early as Grade 3. Emphasis is placed on the responsibility of the digital age, teaching credible resource research in an age of misinformation.
École secondaire Père-René-de-Galinée (Semi-Private)
While the first two options on our list provide the choice to meet French education halfway in a bilingual or English-optional setting, this last school has a fully Francophonic focus. ESPRDG is located at 450 Maple Grove Road in Cambridge, Ontario and is a short fourteen minutes drive from Kitchener city centre.
A Semi-Private Separate Catholic High School founded in 1996, ESPRDG is well known in the Kitchener-Waterloo area for offering high level French education wrapped in the values of a Franco-Ontarian and Catholic nature.
In this way, they focus on student development that is as spiritually-based as it is academic and culture-based. This is accomplished directly by the school being certified as an International Baccalaureate (IB) Educator.
The IB program is an internationally recognized non-profit educational curriculum that is accepted worldwide, focusing on students’ personal growth in addition to high academic standards and cultural awareness. Students are directed towards a critical thinking education that makes them self sufficient for the modern, globalised world.
While this makes ESPRDG a cosmopolitan experience, the school remains dedicated to its Francophone roots by way of a thorough Language Policy.
Students and staff are committed to all communication being in French, as well as all signage, curricular and extracurricular activities, and any community gatherings from mass to student council are conducted in French. But in fairness to the request of any student, they do offer English lessons for students from Grade 7 to Grade 12.
ESPRDG also offers physical stimulation amongst all its high-level academic stimulation. The school’s sports teams are “Les Chevaliers” and they compete in volleyball, basketball, soccer and hockey. The Grade 7 & 8 Girls Basketball team posted an undefeated season in 2021, en route to a regional championship.
Within the Kitchener-Waterloo area there are no shortage of options when it comes to French education outside the public school system. But these three we’ve identified are a great starting point to give families and students an idea of what they can expect, and how to go about matching their Francophonic comfort level to their academic pursuits.
When considering buying or relocating to Kitchener-Waterloo and a private French education is something you have as a priority, please contact us if you have any of Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate/Vocational, KW Bilingual School, or ESPRDG in mind.
If you have questions about the area from neighbourhoods to know-how, our real estate team is always happy to help. Feel free to contact us today!