In Canada, each Province and Territory has jurisdiction over its own education system. Public education is free to all Canadian citizens and permanent residents aged less than 20 years.
Parents are responsible for providing school supplies, school uniforms are not worn but Band and Sports uniforms are also the parent’s responsibility. In Alberta, students are legally required to attend school between the ages of 6 and 16 years.
It is extremely important that you find out when the registration period is to ensure that your kids get the places at the schools you want. The registration normally takes place several months before the year starts (I.E. register in Feb. for September). Contact the particular school to find out the precise details. There may well be an administration fee charged to register your child!
There are a number of different types of schooling options available for your child’s education in Alberta. The choices are: Public, French immersion, Catholic, Francophone, Charter and Private Schools. Parents also have the option of home schooling their children.
Each school has its own attendance area; school boards are required to provide transportation for students that live more than 2.4 kilometers away. There may be a charge for this which you can expect to have to pay before the start of each school year. Your child does not have to enroll in the school in your attendance area as you may choose to enroll them elsewhere. However, the parents would then be responsible for transportation to and from school. Also, a percentage of the local taxes that every resident has to pay are paid to the school system of your choice (catholic, public etc.) in your catchment area.
The school year usually runs from the beginning of September through to June 30th. However, there may be variations to this from system to system. Most schools close down for the months of July and August as well as breaks at Christmas and Easter.
Preschool and Kindergarten
Schooling can start as early as 3 years old, at preschool. These tend to be privately run; therefore, you have to pay for them. Most children will attend pre-school until they are five years old.
Children’s Services set standards for day care, nursery schools, drop in centers and family day homes. This ensures the health and safety and well-being of the children that attend these facilities.
Kindergarten generally starts at the age of 5 years, although some school boards have different age cut off dates. The student will attend 5 days of either morning or afternoon classes. Kindergarten has 400 instructional hours per year. It is normally part of the school that your child will attend in Grade 1 and is good preparation for full time school.
If your kid(s) are around this age be sure to find out about vaccinations. There will be standard Vaccinations offered that schools MAY insist on being up to date before they start school. Check with your chosen school for more details.
This age or younger is a very good time to think about saving for your child’s post secondary education. Fees for post secondary education in Alberta are very expensive. There is a savings plan available in which the Federal Government will input a percentage of your contributions. These are called Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP).
Elementary and High School
Children start Elementary school at the age of 6 years (Grade 1) and stay there until they are 12 years old(Grade 6). There are certain subjects that are required in these grades; these include Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, Art and Music, Health and Physical Education. There are also optional courses available; these vary from school to school.
Some school boards have a middle school for grades 5 to 8. If there is no middle school structure the children move on to junior high for Grades 7 to 9. (12 to 15 years)
Finally, there is Senior high school; this is for grades 10 – 12(15 – 18 years old). To graduate from high school, students need to achieve 100 credits. Credits are given for different subjects and courses that the student can take.
High schools also offer many different choices for students to help them to prepare for further education in Alberta.
Schools do not have to teach a second language, however many schools offer various language courses. Students are encouraged to learn French, Canada’s other official language. Depending on the school there are many other second language courses available.
There are three types of language courses offered:
Immersion – this is where French is mainly used during the school day to teach the pupils. At elementary level it is used for 50 – 100 % of the day and 40 – 80% at the secondary level. You do not have to have French speaking parents to enroll in French immersion.
Bi-lingual – in which the language is used 25-50% of the time.
Second language programs – in which a particular language is taught as a course.
Transfer from abroad
Students who are new to education in Alberta and are from a foreign (non Canadian curriculum) school system should submit an official statement of previous standing, such as a report card to the school they want to enroll in. You should also have the previous school records and transcripts, copies of course outlines and content.
After considering a number of factors including the students age, records and test results they will be placed in the appropriate grade.
Post Secondary Education
Post Secondary education in Alberta has a wide variety of institutes to choose from:
There are publicly funded colleges which are located at many different places. The courses that these colleges offer include academic upgrading, job readiness, apprenticeship certificate and diplomas.
The two main technical institutions of Alberta are North Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) which is located in Edmonton and South Alberta Institute of Alberta (SAIT) located in Calgary offer certificate, diploma’s, apprenticeship and continuing education in Alberta that are tailored to workplace requirements.
Three campus based universities, University of Alberta (Edmonton), University of Calgary and the University of Lethbridge and one distance learning university, the University of Athabasca. There are also seven private colleges that are accredited to grant degrees at University level.
Another type of course available is the Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training System which is an industry and government partnership that ensures a highly skilled workforce in 54 designated trades. There are also scholarships available in this system.
Student loans, numbers and permits
As with all of Canada, the Post Secondary education in Alberta is NOT free. Several years ago, the Canadian Government launched Registered Education Savings Plans (RESP’s) to help parents save for their children’s future education in Alberta. These are great if you start them early, but if your kids are about to start when you land it is too late.
In that case, there are interest free student loans available if you attend a designated post secondary institute full time. These are only available to Canadian citizens or permanent residents. There are two sources of student loans for education in Alberta – the Government of Canada and the Government of Alberta.
To be able to enroll in any school or post secondary institute in Alberta or to apply for a student loan you must firstly apply for an Alberta Student Number.