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British Columbia has one of the top-rated school systems in Canada and the standards of education in Vancouver are generally excellent. This makes Vancouver a great city for expats moving with children.
The Fraser Institute ranks and compares schools in North America, and it is recommended that expat parents consult this report when searching for a suitable school and district in Vancouver.
Public schools in Vancouver
Public schooling in Vancouver is free, including for expats who are permanent residents or those who are in Canada on a work visa.
Schooling in British Columbia is divided into two levels: elementary (kindergarten to grade 7) and secondary school (grade 8 to 12). It is compulsory for children to attend school from the age of five to 16.
The quality of Vancouver’s public schools is relatively high across the board, although the most prestigious schools tend to be located in the city’s more affluent areas.
There are eleven school districts in the Metro Vancouver area and placement at a public school is dependent on a child’s proximity to a particular school’s catchment area. Expats who wish to enrol their child in a public school should therefore carefully consider where they choose to live in the metro area.
Private schools in Vancouver
There are a number of excellent private schools in Vancouver. Unlike public schools, enrolment at private schools is selective and expats should apply in advance if they wish to secure a place for their child at their first choice.
Private schools are managed independently and have more freedom to follow their own curricula. However, they still adhere to the British Columbia Ministry of Education’s regulations, and some are even partially funded by the provincial government.
There are also a number of international schools in Vancouver and the greater British Colombia region for expats who want their children to continue their education under their home country’s curriculum.
Education at private and international schools comes at a predictably high cost. Expats moving to Vancouver as part of a corporate relocation should try to factor this into their contract negotiations if planning to send their child to an independent school.
Tertiary education in Vancouver
For expats who wish to enrol at a university or college, Vancouver has plenty of options. The University of British Columbia deserves special mention. It is just 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver, and its leafy western perch on the coast at Point Grey is a spectacular location.
Also worth noting is the Vancouver Film School. Vancouver has earned the nickname ‘Hollywood North’ for its burgeoning film industry. This means students at the film school have many opportunities to practise the theory, something of a rarity around the world.
Special-needs education in Vancouver
British Columbia endeavours to educate all students with diverse learning needs in inclusive settings wherever possible. The province provides flexible programming that is responsive to the learning needs and wellness of all students. Students with disabilities receive additional support from a variety of multi-disciplinary team members, based on each student’s unique strengths and support needs.
If, after collaborative discussions with the school learning team, families are interested in exploring alternative education options, the province's school board offers several opportunities and specialised means for students with visual or auditory impairments; those with learning, emotional or medical needs; giftedness; learning disabilities; and mental health issues.
Tutoring in Vancouver
Tutoring is popular among both local and expat parents in Vancouver. Parents who aren't sure of where to start searching for a tutor will find that their children’s schools and other expat parents may be a good starting point.
Tutors can be particularly useful in helping children adjust to a new curriculum, learn a new language, assist in specific subjects or prepare for university entrance exams. Little House Tutoring and Sealy Tutoring are both excellent tutoring companies in the city.
►Lifestyle in Vancouver provides great insight into activities to do with children in the city
"Our daughter hasn’t started school yet, but children under the age of five can attend 'Strong Start', a government-sponsored programme designed to prepare young children for school. The programme is free for children and at least one parent attends with the child during the class. Classes consist of story time, open play with other children, arts and crafts, and also include a snack break. It is an incredible programme and unbelievable that it is free for children to attend. Just another amazing example of how great Canada is for families."
Read more about American expat Cyrus's experiences in Vancouver.
Are you an expat living in Vancouver?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Vancouver. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
For anyone starting a new life abroad, ensuring access to good quality healthcare is essential. Cigna Global are specialists in providing international health plans for expats, ensuring you have access to quality care and support whenever you need it. Cigna’s health plans can be tailored exactly to meet the individual needs of you and your family.
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