Education in Vancouver: Choosing the Right School for Your Third Culture Kid

It might hardly qualify as news anywhere in the world, but first off, being a parent is never easy. Neither is emigrating from a place you felt comfortable in, and arriving in completely new surroundings. Vancouver is a city that is very welcoming to its expats and immigrants, but still...very few people are beaming with joy when they think about having to properly raise their child while simultaneously trying to deal with the administrative side of a new life in Vancouver.

Some parents out there might have other worries that go beyond the confusion of the initial couple of weeks. How will my child adapt? Will they have trouble blending in and finding their place? Will they have trouble communicating? Is it a good idea to send them to a local school, or should I go the extra mile and provide them with an international education at a private institution?

Your worries are obviously not unfounded, and it is only right that you care for your child’s well-being. But you probably already know that children are tough little troopers. They can and will quickly adapt to anything. Given the right educational circumstances and undying support from you, the parents, kids will greatly profit from entering a new culture at a young age.

Vancouver’s Educational Landscape

Luckily, for both you and your child, Vancouver has excellent educational institutions, so there is no need for concern here! Whether you would like your child to remain closely in touch with their own cultural roots or absorb as much of the diversity your new hometown has to offer, your child is in good hands.

For a veritable expat hotspot, Vancouver has a rather slim range of private schools in general - international schools in particular. Just over a dozen institutions can be found in the city. The upsides of private schools, however, are quite straightforward.

Some offer courses in ESL (English as a Second Language) and classes in international languages, while others are boarding schools in which your child lives on campus. Vancouver also has a number of religious private schools, which may be a good option for parents who have strong religious beliefs.

Obviously, private schools will not be the right choice for every family, due to the steep tuition or perhaps your desire for your child to experience public school. The quality of the public school system in Vancouver and, in fact, in all of British Columbia is excellent.

Schooling is compulsory for children up to the age of 16 and begins as early as kindergarten, which is already part of the elementary level. The educational standards in BC are very high and compare very favourably internationally.

Wherever you may hail from, as an expat in Vancouver you will be certainly be pleased with the quality of Vancouver’s public schools. Another advantage of public schools is, of course, their availability. You will be able to move to any neighborhood in the city and find a school nearby. Private schools, however, often limit your choices if you want to keep your child’s (and your own) daily commute as short as possible.

For some of the larger groups of immigrants and expats, some public schools have also incorporated classes in their respective mother tongues into their curriculum. A notable example is the Early Mandarin Bilingual program, designed to help third culture kids stay in touch with their “first culture”.

Feeling Right at Home

There is, of course, no guarantee that your child will be able to adapt, make new friends and feel right at home – it largely depends on your child’s personality. But you can rest assured that, with the stunning diversity of people of all backgrounds living in Vancouver, your child will not feel out of place and will probably meet other kids from your home country fairly quickly.

Once the heart and mind is opened up – and this holds true for both kids and parents – the possibilities for getting to know new cultures, habits, and lifestyles from all over the world are almost limitless!

Erinc Yilmaz is a content editor for the leading global expat network InterNations and third culture kid since age five.

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