Education in Calgary

Most Canadian children attend public schools. There is a standardised provincial curriculum that is taught in all public schools in Alberta, which parents can view online.

These schools have an excellent reputation – despite charging no tuition fees – and focus not only on excellence in 'book-learning', but offer extra-curricular activities and field trips, as well. Note that, in almost all cases, the school in which a child is placed depends on their parents' residential location – schools will only accept a child from a different 'catchment area' if they have ample free space in the child's particular grade level.

education books neatly stacked

The Calgary Board of Education, which administers state-funded schools in the city, is by all accounts a wonderfully helpful body, and expats are urged to direct any questions or concerns to them directly. One final note is that while public education is free in Calgary, parents will be required to pay in the region of CAD 500 a year to cover school uniforms, materials, field trips and other costs.

Public Schools in Calgary

high school students listening to teacher in class

Most Canadian children attend public schools. There is a standardised provincial curriculum that is taught in all public schools in Alberta, which parents can view online.

These schools have an excellent reputation – despite charging no tuition fees – and focus not only on excellence in 'book-learning', but offer extra-curricular activities and field trips, as well. Note that, in almost all cases, the school in which a child is placed depends on their parents' residential location – schools will only accept a child from a different 'catchment area' if they have ample free space in the child's particular grade level.

The Calgary Board of Education, which administers state-funded schools in the city, is by all accounts a wonderfully helpful body, and expats are urged to direct any questions or concerns to them directly. One final note is that while public education is free in Calgary, parents will be required to pay in the region of CAD 500 a year to cover school uniforms, materials, field trips and other costs.

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 will receive, there is not much difference between the two. Note that in order to enrol a child in a Catholic school, one of the child's parents must be a (practising) Roman Catholic.

Private and International Schools in Calgary

A small minority of around eight percent of children in Calgary attend private schools. The tuition fees for these institutions (which include international and charter schools) can range from anywhere between CAD 3,000 and CAD 20,000 per year.

Although these schools enjoy famous reputations, whether or not the quality of education they provide is commensurate to their fees is debatable. Many Canadian private schools offer scholarships for particularly gifted children.

A big advantage of the private school system is that parents have the opportunity to meet and interview their child's prospective teachers before choosing to enrol. For parents with children who don't speak English or French, or who have special educational needs, the private school system might be worth investigating as it simply boasts more resources than either of the public systems.

While Calgary doesn't have any international schools that follow foreign curriculums, there are a number of good Canadian private schools that offer the IB curriculum.

Affording private schools

The province of Alberta might help you reduce the expense of your child's private school education by providing schools that meet a specific criterion with provincial grants. Click here to read more about Alberta Education's private schools grant system.

Furthermore, many of Calgary's private schools themselves will assist you in funding your child's education through scholarships and bursaries. The former refers to merit-based payments that your child may earn through great marks, an extremely successful entrance examination, outstanding community involvement, or remarkable achievements in a particular area, such as arts or athletics. In contrast, bursaries are a form of financial aid that a school pays based on your needs. Whether you are applying for scholarships or for bursaries, you ought to do so early, as schools typically have strict application deadlines.

Tertiary Education in Calgary

There are some very good tertiary education options for expats moving to Calgary. The University of Calgary, despite being a relatively young and small institution, is gaining a reputation as a research-orientated, interdisciplinary academy.

Furthermore, the University of Alberta, located in Edmonton, about three hours from Calgary, boasts a long, proud pedigree of academic excellence. It is consistently ranked as one of Canada's premier tertiary education institutions. The University of Alberta is the place to go for those considering studying anything in the field of health sciences.

The Top 5 Public High Schools in Calgary

Sir Winston Churchill

First up is Sir Winston Churchill High School, the top-ranked high school on our list which has consistently been a provincial leader. For its approximate 2000 students, diploma completion rates average 87%. Students attending Churchill live in Dalhousie, Edgemont, The Hamptons, Nolan Hill, Varsity Acres, Varsity Estates, and Sherwood. Situated on more than eight acres in the community of Brentwood, Churchill High is one of the largest in Calgary. Most students use Calgary Transit, and there is a dedicated student route. Churchill has a lot to offer students, including:

  • Dual credit
  • International Baccalaureate (IB)
  • Off-Campus Work Experience
  • Language classes in French, Spanish, and German
  • Fine arts, and
  • Career and technology programs

To go along with intellectual pursuits, the Churchill Bulldogs are represented across every inter-school sport in the CSHSAA, and students can choose from among 40-50 clubs or activities for fun and enrichment.

Springbank Community High School

Next, we take a look at Springbank Community High School, which comes in a close second among public high schools in the Calgary area. It is located on the far west side of the city, two blocks south of Calaway Park, and serves the more rural Jumping Pound area.

Springbank enrols students from one of Calgary’s more rapidly growing high income areas, and student outcomes continue to improve over a five year period. In its annual report from 2014, Springbank points to one thing that makes it unique– a dedication to technology across its curriculum. The school offers online and hybrid courses that complement traditional classes. The reports note the drop-out rate is 0.6%, a contrast to its diploma completion rate of 93.6%. Springbank is a smaller school, with a population of approximately 175 in each high school grade (10-12).

Western Canada High School

Number three on our list is Western Canada High School. This school is located in central Calgary, on the north side of the Cliff Bungalow area. Similar to its higher-ranked counterparts, Western has a diploma completion rate of 87%. The attendance area for this energetic high school community includes the Beltline and Mission districts. With 2,056 students enrolled across grades ten through twelve, students can choose from excellent programs such as:

  • Dual Credit
  • Early French Immersion
  • International Baccalaureate (IB)
  • Late French Immersion
  • Off-Campus Work Experience
  • Extensive fine arts opportunities in drama, art, choral, jazz and concert band including the CBE Fine Arts Certificate
  • CTS program focused on Business, Finance, Law, Robotics, and Sports Medicine

Full athletic and extracurricular programs keep fans cheering for their Redhawks. With the range of activities, it is no wonder that Western excels in academics, athletics, and extracurricular activities.

William Aberhart High School

Serving a diverse and international student body, William Aberhart High School ​ranks fourth. They also take advantage of their location just east of the University of Calgary. Students attending Aberhart live in the southern part of Brentwood and Banff Trail. From this central location, Aberhart offers the following programs:

  • Advanced Placement (AP)
  • Dual Credit
  • Early French Immersion
  • Late French Immersion
  • Off-Campus Work Experience
  • Spanish Bilingual
  • ESL support for all grades

In fact, Aberhart is one of only two Calgary schools designated for full Spanish bilingual immersion. With an enrolment just over 1500, students at Aberhart have a diploma completion rate of almost 84%. The Friends of Orange support athletic and extracurricular activities. Their fine arts program is highly regarded across the Province, and Graduates of the William Aberhart Music Program can be found in many leading university and college programs across Canada and the United States.

Dr. E.P. Scarlett High School

Not to be forgotten, Dr. E.P. Scarlett High School ​sits on the southern side of the city. Serving Lake Bonavista and other southern districts, the Scarlett Lancers consistently perform well. With a diploma completion rate of 87%, Scarlett joins Aberhart as a Spanish bilingual high school, and also offers:

  • Advanced Placement (AP)
  • Dual Credit
  • Early French Immersion
  • Late French Immersion
  • Off-Campus Work Experience

The enrolment of 1671 students means that Scarlett is large enough to offer specialized programs, but small enough to feel comfortable. There are career interest program offerings including dance, film studies, sports performance, journalism, sports medicine, learning strategies, and theatre production. Like other schools within Calgary, dedicated bus routes provide transportation for most students.