Foundations of Education


Describes the roles and responsibilities of Ontario's major education stakeholders.

Key Concepts

  • Ministry of Education
  • Education Quality and Accountability Office
  • Ontario College of Teachers
  • school boards
  • school trustees
  • student trustees
  • directors of education
  • superintendents
  • parent involvement committees
  • principals
  • school councils
  • student councils

Graded Tasks

  • prepare for your seminar this week (2 tasks)

Stakeholder Roles and Responsibilities

In accordance with the Education Act, a number of education stakeholders have specific roles and responsibilities within Ontario's educational system. This extended topic introduces the roles of the major stakeholders. For four of the stakeholders, students are assigned a task to complete.

To set the context for much of what follows, watch the short introductory video below:

📌 The content below incorporates text with permission from the People for Education website. The People for Education is a registered Canadian charity. Its mission is "to strengthen a universal public education system that graduates all young people with the skills and competencies they need to contribute to a fair and prosperous society, and to live happy, healthy, economically secure, civically engaged lives."

Ontario Ministry of Education

The Ministry of Education is responsible for overseeing all aspects of Ontario’s public and early childhood education system. Under the Education Act, the Ministry is responsible for:

  • setting the provincial curriculum (i.e., what students will learn in each grade and subject)
  • allocating funding to school boards
  • setting policies and guidelines for school boards
  • establishing the requirements for graduation diplomas and certificates
  • creating lists of approved textbooks and learning resources
The Minister of Education (and the Minister Responsible for Early Years and Child Care) are elected Members of Provincial Parliament (MPP), and are appointed by the Premier.

Website: Ontario Ministry of Education

Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO)

The Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) is an independent government body that administers province-wide testing to every student in grades 3, 6, 9 and 10. It provides test results to individual students, school boards, and the province. The EQAO also surveys students in those grades, as well as principals and teachers, and provides results from these attitudinal and behavioural questionnaires to school boards.

The EQAO is is responsible for:

  • developing and administering tests in reading, writing and math
  • reporting test results to the Ontario Ministry of Education and the public
  • providing recommendations to improve test results
Website: Education Quality and Accountability Office

Ontario College of Teachers

The Ontario College of Teachers regulates the teaching profession. It is responsible for:

  • establishing the requirements for a teaching certificate and setting standards for teacher training programs
  • maintaining a provincial register of qualified teachers
  • investigating complaints against teachers
Website: Ontario College of Teachers
📌 The Ontario College of Teachers will be introduced in greater detail next week.

School Boards

There are 72 school boards in Ontario, including 31 English public boards, 29 English Catholic boards, 4 French public boards, and 8 French Catholic boards. There are also several ‘school authorities’ that oversee schools in hospitals, treatment centres, and in remote regions.

School boards are responsible for:

  • deciding how to spend the funds they receive from the province (for expenditures such as hiring teachers and other staff, building and maintaining schools, and purchasing school supplies)
  • establishing an annual balanced budget for the school board
  • deciding to close schools or build new schools
  • coordinating programs in schools such as special education, supports for new Canadians, and French Immersion programs
  • developing local education policy (e.g., safe school programs and literacy programs)
  • ensuring schools follow the rules set out in the Education Act
  • establishing a School Council at each school and a Parent Involvement Committee for the school board
Website: Ontario Public School Boards Association
📌 There are four types of school boards in Ontario. Under section 93 of the Canadian Constitution, Roman Catholics have the right to a publicly funded separate denominational school system, and French-speaking families have the right to attend French-language schools.

French-language education serves students whose parents are “French-language rights-holders," according to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or who qualify under school boards’ admissions guidelines. In French-language schools, all of the business of the school is conducted in French, including parent-teacher interviews and school council meetings. Students learn the same overall curriculum as their English-language counterparts, but the curriculum is taught exclusively in French. Schools in the French-language system have a mandate that reaches beyond teaching academic subjects. These schools – because they serve minority-language parents and communities – have the added responsibility of supporting the vitality of the language and culture of the families and communities they serve.

Depending on their language, religious background, or choice, students can attend English Public, English Catholic, French Public, or French Catholic schools.

School Trustees

School trustees are elected to each school board during municipal elections. They serve as the locally elected representatives of the public and parents. School trustees receive an annual honorarium that ranges from $6,000 to $26,000. School trustees are responsible for:

  • establishing a school board’s mission, vision, values, goals and climate
  • developing multi-year school board plans which endeavour to achieve the school board’s goals
  • consulting with parents, students and supporters of the school board on the school board plan and bringing feedback to the attention of the school board
  • ensuring conditions in the school board promote student achievement and well-being
  • ensuring effective stewardship of the school board’s budget and resources
  • making decisions about policy direction. (Overall policy decisions are made by the trustees with input from the community, and based on the advice of school board staff. Day-to-day decisions are left to school board staff.)
  • participating in decisions that benefit the entire school board and upholding the resolutions of the school board
  • hiring and reviewing the performance of the school board’s director of education
  • participating in committees, such as the Special Education Advisory Committee and the Parent Involvement Committee, and participating in quasi-judicial committees such as those responsible for suspensions and expulsions and special education appeals
Website: Ontario School Trustees and Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association

Recommended Reading: School Board Trustees - Who are they? Why are they important?

Graded Task: School Trustees

In preparation for your seminar this week, write out an answer to the following question. Your TA may call on you to share your answer in the seminar:
Q4.2: Imagine your are running for election as a school trustee for the school board you graduated from. List three election platform commitments you would promise to voters. (Answer Length: 100 - 150 words | Format: Point Form)
Potential Seminar Question
📌 Student trustees represent the interests of students at school board meetings. They are elected by their fellow students and play an active role in the decision-making process at the school board.

Website: Ontario Student Trustees' Association

Directors of Education

The Director of Education is the Chief Executive Officer for a school board. The director is appointed by the school trustees. The director is responsible for overseeing the operations of the school board, including the management of business services, improvement of student academic performance, and the operation and maintenance of school buildings.

Website: Council of Ontario Directors of Education


School superintendents (otherwise known as “supervisory officers”) are school board staff who are responsible for groups of schools in each school board. Superintendents may be involved in suspension appeals, special education meetings, and requests to attend a school other than the home school, among other responsibilities.

Superintendents may also be assigned by the school board to oversee board-wide programs (e.g., a Superintendent for Special Education).

Website: Ontario Public Supervisory Officers' Association
📌 Parent Involvement Committees (PICs) are board-level committees that help school boards work more effectively with parents. Members include parents (they must make up the majority), the Director of Education and one or more school trustees. Parent Involvement Committees are responsible for:

  • providing information and advice on parent engagement to the school board
  • communicating with and supporting school councils
  • organizing activities to help parents support their children’s learning at home and at school.


Principals are responsible for the management of individual schools. They may have one or more vice-principals assigned to help them. Principals are responsible for:

  • overseeing the teaching and curriculum in the school and making decisions about their school's School Improvement Plan
  • supervising teachers and other staff
  • admitting students and making decisions about special education placements
  • administering the school’s budget and ensuring the school building is well maintained
  • making decisions about the allocation of specialized staff, such as department heads, arts specialists, and school library staff
  • maintaining student records and ensuring report cards are distributed to parents
  • overseeing student discipline and making decisions about suspensions and recommendations for possible expulsions
  • working with the school council to encourage parent involvement, assist in decisions about fundraising, and develop new policies related to protocols (e.g., the school’s Code of Conduct)
Websites: Ontario Principals' Council and Catholic Principals' Council of Ontario

Graded Task: Principals

In preparation for your seminar this week, write out an answer to the following question. Your TA may call on you to share your answer in the seminar:
Q4.3: Speaking from the perspective of an elementary and/or high school teacher OR an elementary and/or high school student, what five personal and/or professional qualities make for the ideal school principal? (Answer Length: 75 - 125 words | Format: Point Form)
Potential Seminar Question

School Councils

School councils provide advice to the principal and school board. Every school must have a school council. Members include: parents, the principal, a teacher, a student (in secondary schools), a non-teaching staff member, and a community representative. The majority of members must be parents and the chair must be a parent. Principals do not vote on school council decisions.

School councils are governed by Ontario Regulation 612. Under Section 2(1), the purpose of the school council is “through the active participation of parents, to improve pupil achievement and to enhance the accountability of the education system to parents.”

School councils are responsible for:

  • sharing information with parents and the community, and seeking their input on matters the school council is discussing
  • providing advice to the principal and school board on topics, such as: school year calendars, strategies to improve school performance, codes of conduct and dress, curriculum priorities, safe arrival programs, community use of schools and community programs provided at the school, selection criteria for principals, and school board policies that will affect the school
Many school councils are also actively involved in organizing social events for the school community and fundraising. School council meetings are open to everyone in the community. You do not have to be a member of the school council to attend.
Website: n/a

Recommended Reading: School Councils: A Guide for Members
📌 Most high schools in Ontario have a student council. The student council is elected by students in the school. It represents all students and their interests at school, on the school council, and at the school board. Student councils are often involved in planning activities and events for students, and may also organize fundraising activities to support school programs or charitable causes.