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How to Choose a High School in B.C. for International Students

Parents, who can afford to send their children to attend  high school (private or public) in B.C., for sure will want to choose the best school; however, the “best” does not always equate to the “most suitable”. Parents often base their judgement of the “best” on some very superficial factors or they just simply follow the advice of an agent.

Some superficial factors would probably be : the school’s ranking, the percentage of students getting top grades (A or B) in most subjects and the percentage of students being accepted to well-known universities, to name a few.

Parents often forget or choose to forget that children are born unique. What works well for one child might not necessarily works for the other. In Asia, the education system is highly competitive and academically suffocating, which is definitely not suitable for all students. Those who could not handle the heavy load of homework and exams are lucky to have parents who can afford and willing to send them over to B.C. to study.

The B.C. education system is not flawless (no system is perfect in this world); however, it offers students a pretty good variety of courses to select from, hence helps them explore their personal interests. Since the majority of international students are attending high schools, this article focuses on characteristics of high schools.

Due to the fact that high school graduation in B.C. is based on a standard curriculum, there is actually not much of a big difference among public schools and private schools. A great number of parents, especially Asians, believe that private schools are a lot better than public schools due to the fact that private school fees are normally much higher than those of public schools for international students and they seem to have more of a say in the school as a result of paying a large sum of money. These parents lack the knowledge that B.C. teachers are unionized and their wages and benefits are in fact very competitive so public schools do attract and retain a good number of high quality teachers. Also, public schools are funded by the government; therefore, resources are sufficient and stable. The possibility of a teachers’ strike is a minus for public schools though. Do note that not all public schools have international intakes, so double check online, with the school boards or agents prior to the application.

Nearly all international students from Asia have English as their second language and must attend some level of ELL (formerly called ESL) classes; therefore, the choice of high school is critical in this perspective. There are 5 ELL levels and students must complete certain levels to be entitled to take certain core courses such as Social Studies 10, Science 10, and English 10. Most schools work on a year-round basis but some are on a semester system. Selecting the most suitable school-term system is crucial. For instance, students are not allowed to take English 10 unless passing ELL 4 Level; therefore,students with weaker English background should choose a semester-bases school rather than year-round one in order to catch up with the ELL levels and minimize the chance of not graduating on time from a regular high school. Take not that people in B.C., who reach the age of 19, are considered as adults and are not allowed to stay in regular high schools, thus they must go to adult schools to complete their secondary education, which might adversely affect their admission to desired university or college.

Small tips as mentioned above are usually not made aware to parents simply because family members and friends do not know about it. The reasons agents do not warn parents either is because they certainly do not know about the information or they have a different agenda – whoever pays more commission gets the business!

In conclusion, choosing a “suitable” high school for your kid is not, after all, so difficult in B.C., where the education system is quite well established and consistent. Ask yourself and your children what you want to achieve and what your priorities are?

• A fast improvement of English in a relatively short period of time – choose a school located in areas where there is a large percentage of English speaking population (e.g. Delta)
• A diverse community with a rich mix of cultural and ethnic background – choose a school located in areas where there are many-generation Canadians from different ethnicity (e.g. East side of Vancouver)
• A community which offers similar environment as Asia – choose a school located in areas where there is a large population of newly immigrated Asians (e.g. Richmond)

Consultants at Global Bridge are not only knowledgeable from an agent’s perspective but also attentive to parents’ considerations as well as students’ abilities. You are welcome to email us or call us about your questions, and we will do our best to help.