Can My Child Go to School for Free in British Columbia?

1st Feb 2014 Comments Off on Can My Child Go to School for Free in British Columbia?

Although it is not directly related to immigration, one of the questions that we are often asked is whether someone’s child is eligible for publicly funded education in British Columbia.  Many school board websites, such as the Vancouver School Board‘s, state which documents certain foreign nationals and permanent residents should provide so that their children may attend publicly-funded elementary and/or secondary school.  However, many people (including some staff at these school boards) are unaware of the “why” or the policies behind the information on these websites.   The predictable result is uncertainty as soon as scenarios which are not listed on school board websites occur.

The Law

Section 82 of British Columbia’s School Act provides that school boards must provide education free of charge to every student of school age if the student and the student’s guardian are ordinarily resident in British Columbia.  It states:

82  (1) A board must provide free of charge to every student of school age resident in British Columbia and enrolled in an educational program in a school operated by the board,

(a) instruction in an educational program sufficient to meet the general requirements for graduation,

(b) instruction in an educational program after the student has met the general requirements for graduation, and

(c) educational resource materials necessary to participate in the educational program.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), a student is resident in British Columbia if the student and the student’s guardian are ordinarily resident in British Columbia.

Because the School Act does not define “ordinarily resident,” the British Columbia government created a policy titled “Eligibility of Students for Operating Grant Funding.”  It outlines the circumstances in which British Columbia’s Ministry of Education will provide operating grant funding to boards of education for students enrolling in their district.  

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