Living and learning options in Metro Vancouver

Whether you’re looking for a pre-school or a PhD, British Columbia is known for high-quality educational institutions, and Metro Vancouver has options to suit every student. With a provincial population recently topping five million, and still growing, new schools are popping up everywhere, and older institutions are being upgraded with cutting-edge technologies to keep up with the fast-paced and competitive educational scene. Significant investments have been made by both the BC government and independent schools to ensure that Metro Vancouver students have some of the best educational opportunities in North America.

Public schools

Metro Vancouver encompasses 12 numbered school districts: Burnaby (41), Coquitlam (43), Delta (37), Conseil Scolaire Francophone (93), New Westminster (40), North Vancouver (44), Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows (42), Richmond (38), Sea to Sky (48), Surrey (36), Vancouver (39) and West Vancouver (45). The largest school district in the Metro Vancouver region is Surrey, enrolling nearly 71,000 students and employing more than 4,000 teachers and administrators, followed by Vancouver School District, which is among the most ethnically diverse public school systems in Canada, with an annual enrollment of approximately 50,000 students in Kindergarten to Grade 12.

Though programs vary by district, each district includes elementary options for French Immersion, special needs support, English as a second language (ESL), and Vancouver specifically also offers public Montessori, arts-centric and even Mandarin options at selected locations. Applications for all programs of choice – including French Immersion, Montessori, Mandarin Bilingual, Aboriginal Focus School, and Fine Arts – began online in January. You will need a Personal Education Number (PEN) to apply.

Students born outside of Canada must first register at the District Reception and Placement Centre before applying at any school. More specific information is available on the DRPC page (left-hand column) of the Vancouver Board of Education website (

Secondary public schools

These students across Metro Vancouver have many excellent specialty options, from competitive mini-school and International Baccalaureate programs, to ESL, arts, technology, hockey and other competitive sports, outdoors, trades and more. For students who need more supportive or flexible learning environments, each district offers a variety of alternative schools with programs crafted for each individual student’s learning needs. To learn more about what is offered where and how to apply to any of these programs, please see the individual school district website.

Independent schools

Metro Vancouver also has a thriving, world-class independent school community made up of religious schools, university prep schools, and others that specialize in Waldorf, arts, special needs such as dyslexia, or outdoors education. Enrollment at these schools is growing at about three per cent a year, with much of the influx coming from international students. These schools regularly appear at the top of the Fraser Institute’s school rankings for the province, led by Kerrisdale’s Crofton House (girls’ prep), Vancouver College (boys’ Catholic) and St. George’s (boys’ prep), Surrey’s Southridge School (co-ed prep) and Shaughnessy’s York House (girls’ prep), and Little Flower Academy (girls’ Catholic). Tuition typically costs between $18,000 and $24,000 annually, up to about $50,000 for a boarding student. For more information about all the independent school options in Metro Vancouver, visit

Higher education

Internationally-acclaimed universities, colleges, and other post-secondary institutions bring students from all over the world to study in the beautiful environment of Metro Vancouver. Competitive and diverse academic and trade programs, as well as proximity to all the natural beauty and outdoor recreational activities the region has to offer, make for a thriving and exceptionally exciting collegiate and university community. While the big university campuses at University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University are mini-cities unto themselves, high-quality undergraduate programs can be found at a large number of university-colleges such as Vancouver Community College, Kwantlen, Langara, Capilano and British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). A large mixed campus on Great Northern Way in East Vancouver, near downtown, combines The Emily Carr University of Art and Design with satellite campuses for UBC, SFU and BCIT for an integrated creative and design education and training hub for the Metro Vancouver region.

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