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Expat parents relocating to Calgary with children of school-going age will be delighted to find that their children will have access to high-quality education at an affordable cost. The Alberta education system benefits from extensive government funding, and schools in Calgary rank as some of the best in the province.
Public schools in Calgary
Most Canadian children attend public schools, thanks to the excellent standard of education in these schools, as well as the fact that government subsidies guarantee free attendance for all children (including expats with permanent residency).
Alberta’s public schools offer a standardised curriculum, which parents can investigate online. These schools have an excellent reputation, and focus not only on 'book learning' but also offer extra-curricular activities and field trips. In almost all cases, school placements will depend on a child’s residential location – schools will only accept a child from a different catchment area if they have space.
Expat parents looking to enrol their children in one of Calgary’s public schools should schedule an appointment with the public school board’s admission office. Following a brief interview, students will be tested on their language and numeracy skills, and be placed in a grade based on their results and age. We recommend bringing along a copy of the child’s curriculum from the previous school to provide some context of their educational background.
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 receive, there is not much of a difference between the two. To enrol a child in a Catholic school, at least one of the parents must be a (practising) Roman Catholic.
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) are often eye-wateringly expensive. Although, many Canadian private schools offer scholarships for gifted children.
Though these private schools enjoy famous reputations, the quality of education at public schools is of an equally high standard. An advantage of the private school system is that parents can meet and interview their child's prospective teachers before enrolling. For parents with children who don't speak English or French or those with special needs, the private school system may be worth considering, as it boasts more resources than either of the public schooling systems.
While Calgary doesn't have international schools that follow a foreign curriculum, many good Canadian private schools offer the International Baccalaureate programme.
Tertiary education in Calgary
There are some excellent tertiary education options for expats moving to Calgary. Despite being a relatively small institution, The University of Calgary is fast gaining a reputation as an excellent research and interdisciplinary academy.
Located in Edmonton, about three hours from Calgary, The University of Alberta is particularly well known for its health sciences faculty and consistently ranks as one of Canada's premier tertiary education institutions.
Special-needs education in Calgary
The Calgary Board of Education is committed to educating 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 multi-disciplinary team members based on each student’s unique strengths and needs.
Following collaborative discussions between the school learning team and the students’ families, The Board offers several complementary opportunities and specialised means of learning for students with physical, mental and learning disabilities. These include students who are blind or visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing and 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 are great for 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.
►Find out more about your medical entitlements as an expat living in the province of Alberta in Healthcare in Calgary
►Our Banking, Money and Taxes page contains all the essential information expats need to manage their finances in Canada
"Calgary has an excellent education system and parents will have a wide variety of options when it comes their kids schooling. No matter which option you choose, kids will get a good education. Our children go to our local public school and we are quite happy with the school."
Read more of South African expat Catherine's experiences in Calgary.
Are you an expat living in Calgary?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Calgary. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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