Calgary’s education system offers an enriching range of world-class options to suit students of all ages – from kindergarten to grade 12, post-secondary, continuing education and childcare. Find the perfect fit for your family.
What to think about before choosing a school
When considering a school in Calgary, consider your family’s lifestyle, preferences and what neighbourhood you live in. On this page, we’ve outlined a guide to navigating the school network in Calgary to help you and your family make the right decision.
Before you start looking at particular schools, take the time to consider what you are looking for in a school, and why. This Calgary blog helps identify things to think about before looking at specific schools.Before choosing a school
Public school: Kindergarten to Grade 12 in Calgary
In Calgary, children can attend public school for free. The public school system is divided into three groups; elementary (Kindergarten to Grade six), junior high school (Grades seven to nine) and high school (Grades 10 to 12).
Calgary has a wide network of great Kindergarten to Grade 12 (K-12) schools across our two systems, the Calgary Board of Education and the Calgary Catholic School District.
Calgary Board of Education
Regardless of where your child is in their learning journey, Calgary’s schools all offer quality learning and supportive environments where they can thrive.
The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) is the largest school district in Western Canada, and caters for the unique learning needs and interests of Calgary’s diverse population. CBE schools have inclusive education opportunities for all students, offering Special and Exceptional Education programs.
Although most CBE schools offer a regular program, no two schools are the same. All schools teach according to the Ministry of Education’s mandated curriculum, but some schools provide a unique focus to subjects, offer optional courses or school activities.
Every student in Calgary has a ‘designated school’ based on where they live – use CBE’s Find a School Tool to identify yours.
Specialized programs may include French Immersion, a focus on arts or science, or internationally recognized programs including Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB).
Calgary Catholic School District
The Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) educates students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 in the Ministry of Education curriculum while centered in the Catholic faith.
As one of the largest school districts in Alberta, CCSD has 117 schools in Calgary and surrounding areas including Airdrie, Cochrane, and Chestermere. Given it’s smaller, grades are often combined in CCSD schools into a mix of K-9 or 7-12.
Special programs include French Immersion, Spanish Bilingual, Hockey Canada Skills Academy and others are offered through the CCSD.
Charter schools in Calgary
Alberta was the first province in Canada to establish charter schools. Although part of the public school system, charter schools in Calgary are operated independently under a performance contract approved by either the local board of education or by the Minister of Education.
All charter schools adhere to the Ministry of Education curriculum, but each school has a unique focus on a particular learning style, teaching style, approach or philosophy. Some charter schools offer traditional learning, girls-only programs, science and technology and gifted education programs.
Since each school has a unique focus, we suggest you explore the mission and vision of Calgary charter schools to understand the program offerings. Currently, the Calgary charter schools include:
- Calgary Classical Academy
- Almadina School Society
- Calgary Arts Academy Society
- Calgary Girls’ School Society
- Connect Charter School
- Foundations for the Future Charter Academy
- STEM Innovation Academy
- Westmount Charter School
If charter schools make sense for your family, make sure to get on the list to register early as there is often a waiting list. Due to the unique teaching approach in charter schools, it’s important to note that school fees are higher than regular public schools.
Private schools in Calgary
You may decide a private school (K-12) makes sense for your family. Separate from the public school system, private schools have higher tuition fees and typically offer unique programs.
There are over 80 private schools in Calgary that offer world-class options and an opportunity for exceptional student enrichment. The Alberta Ministry of Education inspects private schools that offer credits toward the Alberta High School Diploma.
There are different kinds of privates schools in Alberta:
Registered private schools
Registered private schools are not eligible for government funding. They are not required to use certificated teachers or teach the Alberta education curriculum, although programs of study must be consistent with the requirements for student learning established by the Minister of Education. These schools can not grant credit for high school courses taken at the school.
Non-funded accredited private schools
Non-funded accredited private schools must use certificated teachers, but are not or teach the Alberta education curriculum, although programs of study must be consistent with the requirements for student learning established by the Minister of Education. These schools are only an option for high school courses.
Funded accredited private schools
Funded accredited private schools receive a grant from the Alberta Ministry of Education. These schools must use certificated teachers, teach the Alberta education curriculum and have a principal who is a certificated teacher.
What do these differences in private schools mean for families?
- Since registered private schools and non-funded accredited schools are not required to follow the Alberta Program of Study, a student may not necessarily be placed at the same grade level if the student registers in another school.
- Funded accredited schools have the highest degree of accountability to Alberta Education.
- Since students in registered private schools are not required to have certificated teachers or follow the Alberta Programs of study, students are not required to write provincial achievement tests (PATs), but must be given the opportunity to do so if requested.
- Students in funded accredited private schools are required to write the PATs.
- Accredited non-funded private schools only provide high school courses so students write diploma exams, but not PATs.
- To ensure private schools are a great fit, families should learn about the school’s values, read the mission statement and speak with the principal and staff.
What to consider when choosing a private school
Parents considering private schools for their children should consider the type of private school, the school’s location, size, pupil-to-teacher ratio, tuition cost, academic focus and rigour, breadth of courses offered, specialized programs, values, transportation options as well as your children’s abilities and learning style.
Post-secondary institutions in Calgary
Of Canada's major cities, Calgary has the one of the highest levels of post-secondary graduates, which isn’t surprising when you consider the quality, variety and accessibility of advanced education here.
More than 90,000 students are enrolled in Calgary’s post-secondary institutions. By collaborating with the city’s business, professional services, technology, arts, sports and non-profit communities, Calgary’s post-secondary institutions equip graduates for a career in the city’s diversifying economy.
Creative and strategic minds study in Calgary across a variety of disciplines – ranging from engineering, medicine and entrepreneurship to visual effects, animation, economics and business.
Alberta University of the Arts
Image credit: AUOA
Image credit: Ambrose University
Bow Valley College
Image credit: Bow Valley
Mount Royal University
Image credit: Mount Royal University
University of Calgary
Image credit: University of Calgary
University of Lethbridge (Calgary campus)
Image credit: University of Lethbridge
Image credit: SAIT
St. Mary’s University
Image credit: Sergei Belski
Did you know?
Students rank Calgary as the fifth best city for students in Canada in 2023, up four ranks from the 2021 rating (Best Cities for Students in Canada, 2023 HelloSafe Report).
Calgary childcare and pre-schools
Choosing childcare is a big decision for families. Luckily in Calgary there are many options that create a safe, healthy and supportive environment for your child.
Choose the path that works best for your family:
Day care programs
Day care programs serve infants, pre-school and kindergarten aged children (two and a half to six years of age).
Pre-schools provide care and supervision for children for four hour in a row or less during the day.
Out-of-school care programs
Out-of-school care programs operate before and after school, during lunch hours and sometimes when schools are closed.
Family day homes
Family day homes offer care in a private residence. There are typically six or less children with one caregiver.
Group family child care programs
Group family child care programs offer care in a private residence. There are typically between seven and 10 children with two caregivers. These programs are suited for children aged 0-12 and offer care before, during or after school.
Children and Youth Services
Children and Youth Services also offer subsidies to help lower income parents cover the costs of childcare. The subsidies are available for eligible low- and middle-income parents who wish to use a licensed preschool or childcare facility.
Affordable child care is a priority across the country and province. Alberta is on track to meet the commitment in the Alberta-Canada Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care Agreement to reduce child care fees to an average of $10 a day by 2026.
Child care programs set their own policies related to fees, notice required to withdraw a child, hours of operation, holiday closures and options for part-time and drop-in care. Ask for a copy of these policies when considering child care programs!