Schools in Vancouver: What You Need to Know

charter schools vs public schools statistics tin cups holding school supplies - scissors, pencils, brushes and markers Middle Class Dad

Vancouver, once a small settlement with a logging sawmill, is now an international metropolis with 2.6 million residents. English and French are the official Canadian languages, yet more and more people in Vancouver speak other languages.

One of the best things about Vancouver is the mild temperature compared to other parts of Canada.

The city also has high standards of healthcare and is home to several of the best children’s hospitals in the world.

If you are thinking about moving to Vancouver with children you will be interested in learning more about schools in Vancouver.

Read on for a detailed guide on your options for education in Vancouver.

Education in Vancouver

In Canada, education is the responsibility of the individual provinces and territories. That is why education can vary so much from one province to the other.

Vancouver is in the province of British Columbia. Here, schooling is compulsory up to the age of 16. School in Vancouver is divided into two levels: elementary and secondary.

Public schools are free in B.C. However, if you are an international student, there may be tuition fees.

Elementary includes kindergarten until grade 7. Children begin school during the calendar year they turn five years old. Kindergarten is a full-day program in Vancouver.

Secondary school includes grades 8 through 12.

Sometimes, secondary school is divided into junior and senior secondary schools. Junior includes grades 8-10 and senior is for the final two years of secondary school. This is especially true of private schools and certain districts.


In B.C. the curriculum for secondary schools includes the following subjects:

  • Applied Design Skills and Technologies
  • Arts Education
  • Career Education
  • English Language
  • Arts
  • Français langue première French Immersion
  • Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Physical and Health Education
  • Science Languages
  • Social Studies
  • Additional Offerings in work experience and trades

Some schools focus more on one area than others but all of these will be offered in each school.

Private vs. Public Schools in Vancouver

There is a lot of flexibility in children’s education in the Greater Vancouver area. Not only do you have the choice between private and public schools, but you can also choose French or Mandarin immersion schools, homeschooling or distributed learning.

The BC Ministry of Education website can give you information so you can decide upon the right option for your family.

Here is more information about the various options.

Public Schools in Vancouver

Vancouver public schools offer an excellent education for youngsters. Canada’s public school system has a reputation around the world for the high academic performance of its students and for their student assessments.

Yet, you should note that each school may be different. Some schools focus on athletic potential while others cultivate the arts.

Once you know where in Vancouver you plan to live you can compare school by school in that area.

International students who attend public schools in Vancouver need to pay tuition. However, if you are an ex-pat with a valid work permit, you will not have to pay tuition for public school.

Public schools offer two Mandarin bilingual programs. One begins in kindergarten and the other begins in grade four.

There are also french immersion schools as well as public schools with an Arts or Indigenous focus.

Private School

There are a limited number of private schools in the Vancouver area. Most of the private schools in and around Vancouver are religious-based.

There are also some private schools focused on international students. Most of these are English-speaking. There are also a few French ones as well.

If you decide to send your kids to private school, be sure that the school you choose is registered with and approved by the Ministry of Education of British Columbia.

The tuition for private schools in Vancouver can vary greatly. You will need to consult each school for pricing. You might pay anywhere from $2000 CAD per year, per student or as much as $55,000.

Some private schools offer board for students as well.

Homeschooling and Distributed Learning Schools

Homeschooling is an option for families who choose to do it. The Greater Vancouver Homelearners offers a variety of resources for families who choose to go this route.

Another option is distributed learning. This option allows you to register with a Ministry-approved school but oversee the learning at home with ministry funding.

Post- Secondary Education

The Government of British Columbia wants to encourage all secondary students to pursue post-secondary education.

There are various provincial scholarships and bursaries to help students finance their post-secondary education.

Most of these are merit-based. There are also awards and bursaries for students who take at least 55% of their courses in French.

International students may also qualify for international education scholarships and awards.


To help young children get ready for kindergarten, BC offers StrongStart programs across the province.

These play-based learning programs are for young children from birth to age five. Usually, you have to register for a session or might be able to go to a drop-in program.

Activities include stories, music, and art designed for early learning development. Children have the opportunity to interact and make friends with children of similar ages.

There is no cost to families. Each school district has one or more locations offering a program, usually located within schools. Parents are required to attend with their children for some programs.

Final Words

There you have it! A detailed look at the options for schools in Vancouver. We hope this article has given you the insight you need to make the right decision for your family.

Be sure to come back again soon for more content applicable to today’s middle-class parents.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market. Click to learn more about me

Recent Posts