Terms and Definitions

Any discussion of the Ontario Secondary School Degree will be filled with many terms and abbreviations which some individual might be unfamiliar with. Below, you’ll find definitions of the most commonly used terms:

OSSD (Ontario Secondary School Diploma)

This is the official name of the diploma Ontario students receive upon graduating secondary school (high school). The specific requirements of the OSSD can be found here.

OST (Ontario Student Transcript)

The following is the definition of the OST as per the Ontario Ministry of Education OST Manual (2013):

The Ontario Student Transcript (OST) was developed in 1983 to provide an official and consistent record of the Ontario secondary school credit courses successfully completed by a student. Since the 1999–2000 school year, schools have been required to provide a complete record of students’ performance in Grade 11 and 12 courses.1 Under this requirement, both successful and unsuccessful attempts at completing Grade 11 and 12 courses must be recorded on the OST. Note that this requirement does not apply to alternative (non-credit) courses. The OST will include:

• all Grade 9 and 10 courses successfully completed by the student, with percentage grades obtained and credits earned;
• all Grade 11 and 12 courses completed successfully or attempted unsuccessfully by the student, with percentage grades obtained and credits earned;
• all equivalent credits granted through the Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) equivalency process under OS/OSS or through the equivalency process under OSIS;
• all Grade 10 courses for which the student successfully challenged for credit through the PLAR challenge process, with percentage grades obtained and credits earned;
• all Grade 11 and 12 courses for which the student successfully or unsuccessfully challenged for credit through the PLAR challenge process, with percentage grades obtained and credits earned;
• identification of compulsory credits, including credits that are substitutions for compulsory credits identified by the ministry as diploma requirements;
• confirmation that the student has completed the forty hours of community involvement;
• confirmation that the student has successfully completed the provincial secondary school literacy requirement. Since September 1, 1999, the OST has also had to include a record of the achievement of exceptional students who have taken “alternative courses”.

Alternative courses are non-credit, individualized courses that are documented in a student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) and that comprise alternative expectations – that is, expectations not found in the Ontario curriculum. (See OS, section 7.4.) The OST is a component of the Ontario Student Record (OSR), and the legislation that applies to the OSR applies also to the OST. This legislation is set out in section 266 of the Education Act and in the Ontario Student Record (OSR): Guideline, 2000. Updated pages for the OSR guideline are distributed to school boards if there are policy changes

OSR (Ontario Student Record)

Essentially, the OSR is the official record of a student’s progress in Ontario schools. Click the link below for more detailed information on the OSR.

PLAR (Prior Learning Assessment & Recognition)

The PLAR process is designed to measure the prior learning of non-Ontario students in order to appropriately place them in the most suitable grade level or learning environment.

There are effectively two main kinds of PLAR: 1) Challenge and 2) Equivalency.

The first method, Challenge, essentially allows schools to offer a series of rich assessment tasks to a student to assess their command and fulfilment of the Ontario Curriculum requirements. For example, if a student from China claims to have completed the equivalent of grade 11 physics in Ontario, but for whatever reason cannot produce proof, the school may Challenge the student by asking them to complete a series of tasks that prove the student does have those skills. This way, the student can proceed to the next grade level within that subject.

Challenge is generally reserved for students who have been homeschooled, or mature students who may not have copies of their original educational history.

The second method, Equivalency, is more commonly used when concerning international students. Typically, international students will arrive in Ontario with some level of education already completed. For example, if a student from India has completed India’s version of Grade 10, and he or she wishes to enrol in grade 11, the school (in Ontario) will search for Equivalencies among the courses the student took in grades 9 and 10. For example, part of the OSSD is the completion of Grade 10 Mathematics. This course has specific requirements. The school will look at the student’s transcript or record of education from India, and check to see if that course teaches the same expectations as the Ontario version of the course. If it does, then it is likely the student will be granted equivalent credits for that course and be allowed to move into grade 11.

There are always certain exceptions that can be made on a case-by-case basis.

Ministry of Education

In Canada, each of the provinces has several ministries that operate and develop protocol and policies for specific aspects of society. One of these is education. Ontario’s Ministry of Education is the governing body for education in Ontario. The ministry is the one that produces all of the curriculum content for courses and is the one that inspects and approves of the curriculum delivery of satisfactory schools.

OUAC (Ontario Universities’ Application Centre)

OUAC is the system Ontario students use in order to apply for universities.