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Expats relocating to Calgary with children of school-going age can rest assured that their educational needs will be catered for. The Alberta education system benefits from extensive government funding, and schools in Calgary are considered to be among the best in the province.
Public schools in Calgary
Most Canadian children attend public schools. There is a standardised provincial curriculum that is taught in all public schools in Alberta which parents can view online. Education at public schools is free for all children (including expats with permanent residency) from kindergarten, which begins the year they turn five.
These schools have an excellent reputation and focus not only on excellence in 'book learning' but also offer extra-curricular activities and field trips. Note that, in almost all cases, the school in which a child is placed depends on their parents' residential location – schools will only accept a child from a different 'catchment area' if they have ample free space in the child's particular grade level.
The Calgary Board of Education, which administers state-funded schools in the city, is by all accounts a wonderfully helpful body, and expats are urged to direct any questions or concerns to them directly.
Catholic schools in Calgary
The other major government-funded education system in the city is the Calgary Roman Catholic Separate School District.
There is a greater focus on religion (and religious instruction) in the Catholic public school system – though in terms of the quality of education students will receive, there is not much difference between the two. Note that in order to enrol a child in a Catholic school, at least one of the child's parents must be a (practising) Roman Catholic.
Enrolling expat children in Canadian schools
Expats will need to schedule an appointment with the public school board's admissions office, which deals with the enrolment of foreign children. Following a brief interview, students will be tested on basic language and numeracy skills, and will then be assigned to an appropriate grade. It is a good idea to bring along a copy of the curriculum from the child's previous school, to provide some context of their educational background.
Private and international schools in Calgary
A small minority of children in Calgary attend private schools. The tuition fees for these institutions (which include international and charter schools) can range from anywhere between CAD 3,000 and CAD 20,000 per year.
Although these schools enjoy famous reputations, whether or not the quality of education they provide is commensurate to their fees is debatable. Many Canadian private schools offer scholarships for particularly gifted children.
A big advantage of the private school system is that parents have the opportunity to meet and interview their child's prospective teachers before choosing to enrol. For parents with children who don't speak English or French, or who have special educational needs, the private school system might be worth investigating as it simply boasts more resources than either of the public systems.
While Calgary doesn't have any international schools that follow a foreign curriculum, there are a number of good Canadian private schools that offer the International Baccalaureate programme.
Tertiary education in Calgary
There are some excellent tertiary education options for expats moving to Calgary. The University of Calgary, despite being a relatively young and small institution, is gaining a reputation as an excellent research-orientated, interdisciplinary academy.
The University of Alberta, located in Edmonton, about three hours from Calgary, boasts a long, proud pedigree of academic excellence. It is consistently ranked as one of Canada's premier tertiary education institutions. The University of Alberta is the place to go for those considering studying anything in the field of health sciences.
Special-needs education in Calgary
It is the objective of the Calgary Board of Education to educate students with diverse learning needs in inclusive settings as far as 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 Board offers several complementary 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 Calgary
Many parents in Calgary, locals and expats alike, opt to employ tutors for their children. Parents will find that their children’s school and other expat parents may be a good starting point for sourcing good private tutors.
For expat families, 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. The Calgary Tutoring Centre and My Tutor are both reputable tutoring companies in the city.