Public education in Vancouver is of excellent quality, and all schools are open to non-Canadian students. Such students, however, are considered international students, and as such, need to pay tuition in order to attend any public school. International tuition is steep; average annual cost is approximately $12,000, comparable to any private school.
The exception to the rule is children of parents who are enrolled in a program of full-time study at a local, public post-secondary educational institution. They are exempt from this policy, and thus do not have to pay international tuition and are allowed to attend Vancouver public schools as a Canadian permanent resident or citizen. This is great news for expats coming to Vancouver to study, but perhaps somewhat dismaying for everyone else, except for those intending to immigrate.
UBC provides helpful information for international students in its Handbook for International Students, and the following excerpt is helpful for expats coming to Vancouver to study:
“If your study permit is valid for at least one year and you are enrolled at a publicly funded institution such as UBC, your minor children (18 years of age and younger) are eligible to attend elementary and secondary school as if they were Canadian residents. They will not be required to pay international student fees. You should begin the enrolment process for your children as early as possible after your arrival in Vancouver. You will need the following to enroll your child in school:
- Passport stamp or visitor record indicating the day your child entered Canada
- Copies of the parents’ study or work permits
The following documents should be translated into English (if necessary):
- Immunization documents
- Birth certificate
- Copies of school report cards, grades, and evaluations from the past two years
To register your child for public school in Vancouver, you must bring your child and necessary documents to the District Reception and Placement Centre (DRPC), located in East Vancouver at 2530 East 43rd Avenue. They can be contacted by phone at 604-713-5999. Their hours of operation are Monday – Friday, 8:30 am to 11:00 am. The DRPC registers students throughout the year, and the busiest months are August and September. If you register during these months, be prepared to spend the entire morning at the DRPC. Please bring the documents listed above with you, and, additionally:
- any other health records
- proof of residence in Vancouver (homeowners—property tax statement, renters—lease agreement)Parents Declaration of Residence form (available at the DRPC)
- any relevant documentation involving guardianship, court orders, etc.
Once your child is registered, the DRPC will send the results to your catchment school. Sometimes assessments will need to be done in reading, writing, and mathematics, especially if English is not the first language at home. In this case, an appointment will be required to return to the DRPC for the assessment.
Something to keep in mind is that immunizations, although strongly recommended, are not mandatory in the province of British Columbia. When you go to the DRPC to register your child for school, you must submit your child’s immunization records, if your child has been immunized. If your child has not been immunized, it is likely the health nurses at the DRPC will strongly recommend that your child receive a number of different vaccinations before starting school. Vaccinations are given on-site at the DRPC. If you do not wish your child to be immunized, don’t be afraid to state this clearly and firmly. Your child cannot be forced to receive vaccinations.
The best way to find the right public school for your child is to use the provided links in the previous section to locate prospective schools in the area in which you are hoping to reside. Once you know which schools are in your area, you can begin to investigate each prospective school, by accessing the school website and phoning the school directly. Generally speaking, public schools in Vancouver’s Westside (and this includes the downtown schools) rate higher, academically, than public schools in East Vancouver.