So You're Looking
for a School? The Professor Says...
Our public elementary
schools in B.C. serve pupils from Kindergarten to Grade 7 (ages 5-12), with
Kindergarten being a half day. Most are neighbourhood schools within walking
distance of home but busing is provided outside the City of Vancouver. Some
preschools start at age four, but they are predominantly private. In Canada,
"primary" means Grades K-3. There are middle schools that span Grades 6-9 (ages
11-14). Secondary or high schools have Grades 8-12 (ages 13-17). All secondary
schools use the B.C. curriculum but some emphasize university entrance while
other focus more on vocational education. Many elementary and secondary schools
offer special emphases such as fine arts, French immersion, traditional
teaching methods, or specialized programs.
(analogous to LEAs in Britain) consist of groups of schools coinciding roughly
with municipalities. They are publicly funded, hire principals (headmasters or
headmistresses) and teachers, and have elected school boards with
superintendents. Individual public schools do not have boards but they have
school planning councils that are advisory. The schools vary in outcomes,
student characteristics, and pedagogy although they are funded at about the
same amount per pupil each year.
The provincial examination results
for Grades 4, 7, 10 and 12 for all schools are presented by the Fraser
Institute in its website. Those figures give only a sense of the academic
emphasis in each school and convey little more about it. In general, schools on
the west side of the Vancouver proper perform better than those on the east
side, perhaps a reflection of socioeconomic advantage. Some suburban schools do
well and others do not so well, partly because of their high
English-as-a-Second Language (ESL) populations. Schools also differ according
to the levels of satisfaction expressed by their parents. That information is
available on the Ministry of Education website.
There is a
considerable difference between the independent schools, which are generally
quite structured in their approach to teaching and learning, and the public
schools, which often incorporate divergent philosophies within the same school.
The word "independent" refers to all nonpublic schools in B.C. Most have
uniforms. They are classified into university prep (high fees, academic
emphasis), Roman Catholic (low fees), Evangelical Christian (low fees), and
others. About 10% of all pupils in B.C. attend independent schools. Most of
those schools receive partial public funding and serve students of diverse
When choosing a school for your children, it is important
to remember that their success will be dependent upon many things--their
individual teachers, their friendships, their strengths and preferences, and
your willingness to assist them with their education. You are encouraged to
make appointments and visit prospective schools. Educators will be pleased to
give you a description, provide a tour, and answer your questions. What you
hear and observe will give you some indication of what the schools are like and
if your children would be happy there. Parents whose children currently attend
are another fine source of information. You are asked to register your children
during the previous school year when you want them to start in their new school
in September. Recent legislation give you the right for your children to attend
any school subject to capacity and governmental guidelines.
suburban areas of B.C., such as Greater Vancouver, offer considerable choice of
schools and programs for parents and students. They are staffed by typically
dedicated teachers and principals who work hard to provide the best possible
education for children. The more you know about your prospective schools, the
more secure your selection will be. Schools and districts usually have websites
that will provide initial information for you.
Provided by Dan
Brown, Professor of Education, UBC.