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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 place for expats moving there with children.
The Fraser Institute ranks and compares schools in North America, and it's recommended that expat parents have a look at this report card to find a suitable school and district for their child.
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 school (kindergarten to grade 7) and secondary school (grade 8 to 12). It is compulsory for children to attend school from the age of five until they’re 16.
The quality of Vancouver’s public schools is generally high, although the better schools tend to be within the more affluent areas of the city.
There are eleven school districts in the Metro Vancouver area and placement at a public school is dependent on a child’s location within a particular school’s catchment area. Expats wanting to enrol their child in a public school should therefore consider carefully 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 well in advance if they wish to find 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 are still regulated by the British Columbia Ministry of Education, and some are even partly 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 education under the curriculum of their home country.
Education at private and international schools comes at a predictably high price and 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 anyone wanting to study at a university or college level, Vancouver has a large number of institutions from which to choose. 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 itself has earned the nickname ‘Hollywood North’ for its burgeoning film industry. This means that students at the film school have many opportunities to put theory into practice, 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 and wellness needs 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 areas in need of support.
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 who are blind or visually impaired; deaf or hard of hearing; 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. Parent who aren't sure where to start searching for a tutor will find that their children’s school and other expat parents may be a good starting point for sourcing good private tutors.
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.
►Kids and Family in Vancouver provides a great insight into life with children in the city
►Discover the most popular events around Vancouver on our What's On in Vancouver page
"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.
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