Education in British Columbia

British Columbia’s schools are among the best in the world. The cost of studying here is lower than in many other locations. We offer exceptional elementary and secondary schools. Our universities and post-secondary institutions are known world-wide. We offer support for international students and for those wishing to learn English as a second language.

Preschool

Many schools offer free programs to help children between three and five years of age prepare for school. Children learn important skills, and parents get information about how to help their children learn.

  • StrongStart BC is free for children up to five years old. Parents join their children in stories, music and art to prepare for kindergarten. Contact your local school district to find out if there is a StrongStart BC program in your community.
  • Ready, Set, Learn gives families with three-year old children information about how to support a young child’s learning. For information, contact your local school or visit the ReadySetLearn website.
  • An English as a Second Language (ESL) preschool program can help your child learn English if required. Ask an immigrant settlement agency for more information.

Kindergarten to Grade 12

In British Columbia, all children between the ages of six and 16 must go to school or they can study at home. Most children who live in B.C. can go to a public school for free, go to a private independent school, or study at home.

To find out if your child is eligible for free public education, contact your local school district or immigrant settlement agency

When you enrol your child at school, you will need to prove your child’s date of birth, your resident status and where you live. You will also need to show your child’s immunization record. Find out more from your local school district.

You can also send your child to an independent school or homeschool your child.

Students can also learn at a distance from their teacher, whether they are at home, school or another learning facility. Visit LearnNow BC for more information.

In order to graduate, all students must meet the provincial graduation requirements.

When students leave school, they can go to work or enrol at a university or college. In addition to a university degree, students can get apprenticeship, vocational or technical training.

For more information about schooling in British Columbia, visit the Education and Training sections of the Government of BC website.

Study Permits for Minor Children Studying in B.C.

Children under the age of 19 who come to Canada to study without a parent or guardian must apply for a study permit. They don’t need a study permit if they are with parents who are working or studying within Canada.

Apply for a study permit from CIC.

Post-secondary Education

British Columbia is home to internationally recognized universities and educational institutes. You can choose from small rural colleges and large urban campuses, and from trades and academic programs. Students can attend class full-time or part-time or study from home through an online program.

Public Institutions

Three types of public post-secondary institutions operate in British Columbia:

  • Universities offer undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Some also offer courses and programs that can lead to a certificate or diploma. Some offer English as a Second Language (ESL) programs.
  • Colleges offer courses leading to certificates, diplomas, associate degrees and applied degrees. Some offer English as a Second Language (ESL) programs.
  • Institutes may offer credentials from certificates to degrees. Institutes are organized by career, vocational and technical specialty, and offer training for a number of occupations.

To learn more about public post-secondary institutions in British Columbia, visit LearnLiveBC and the EducationPlannerBC.

Private Institutions

British Columbia also has a number of private degree-granting institutions, career training institutions and English as a Second Language (ESL) schools. To find out more about private career training institutions in B.C., visit the Private Career Training Institutions Agency of B.C. website.

Costs and Financial Help

Students pay fees that cover part of the cost of public universities, colleges and institutes. Each post-secondary school and each program has different fees.

The B.C. government assists students who need financial help and who have lived in B.C. for 12 months before their program starts. To find out about student loans, scholarships and grants, talk to the financial aid office at the college, institute or university you plan to attend visit StudentAid BC.

International Students

Each year, thousands of students from around the world come to British Columbia to study and to learn English. If you wish to study in B.C., follow these steps.

Apply

Decide where you want to study and apply to the institution for admission. Use the Education Planner to get information about different schools and programs. To apply to more than one institution, visit the Post-Secondary Application Service of British Columbia. Check the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials to confirm that your school is recognized by the Government of British Columbia, and find out how your academic credentials are accepted in B.C.

Once you are accepted, the institution will issue an acceptance letter.

You may be eligible for a scholarship or bursary to help with costs; check with the school.

Get a Study Permit

If you plan to study in B.C. for more than six months in a row, and if you are not a permanent resident, you will need a study permit from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to attend a school in B.C.

If you have questions about study permits or temporary resident visas, contact the Canadian embassy, high commission or consulate responsible for your region.

Visit LearnLiveBC  for information on scholarships and bursaries for international students.

Learn English

You will need to speak, read and write in English in order to work or study in B.C. Good English language skills will help you work in your profession, take care of daily activities and find success in B.C.

Permanent residents may be eligible for free English language classes. You will need to pay for private language classes.

BC libraries offer books, videos and online resources to help immigrants learn and improve their English skills. Visit the NewToBC: The Library Link for Newcomers website to search for materials that can help you with speaking, listening, reading and writing.