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Updated March 2019

Public School Students in British Columbia

Student enrolment in public schools declined after 2000–01, but has recovered significantly since 2015–16.

Between 2000–01 and 2014–15, the full-time equivalent (FTE) student enrolment for public schools in BC declined by 61,734 students (10.3%). Starting in 2015–16, enrolment has increased by 23,749 students (4.4%).

In total, enrolment has declined by 37,985 students (6.3%) over the past 18 years.

4graph1

Source: Ministry of Education. (2019). BC Schools – Student Enrolment
and FTE by Grade. Values are rounded to the nearest whole number.

The number of students is expected to keep increasing.2

Based on population projections, the number of public school students in BC is expected to be roughly unchanged for 2018–19. Afterwards, the rate of change quickly increases to just under 1% increase per year.

In total, the number of students is excepted to increase by 8% by 2027.

4graph2

Source: Ministry of Education (2019). Projection of Public School Aged
Headcount Enrolments. Values are rounded to nearest tenth of a percent.

While general enrolment has declined, the number students in French Immersion has significantly increased.3

Enrolment in French immersion programs has increased by 89.4% since 2000–01.

4graph3

Source: Ministry of Education. (2019). BC Schools – Student Enrolment
and FTE by grade. Values are rounded to nearest whole number.

The number of English Language Learner students has also increased.4

Between 2000–01 and 2018–19, the full-time equivalent student enrolment in English language learning (ELL) programs increased by 17.4%. These are students who receive funding. It is estimated that there is unmet need for non-funded ELL students.

4graph4

Source: Ministry of Education. (2019). BC Schools – Student Enrolment
and FTE by Grade. Values are rounded to the nearest whole number.

The number of international students has skyrocketed.5

Between 2000–01 and 2018–19, the non-resident full-time equivalent student enrolment in public schools increased by 13,112.0, an increase of almost four and a half times.

As of 2018–19, there are 16,062.5 non-resident FTE students enrolled in BC public schools.

4graph5

Source: Ministry of Education. (2019). BC Schools – Student Enrolment
and FTE by Grade. Values are rounded to the nearest whole number.

Over the past 18 years, the number of adult students in ppublic schools fell by almost half6 due to changes in tuition fee policies brought in by the BC Liberal Government.7 With adult basic education tuition-free once again, the number of adult students has increased significantly in a single year.

Adult basic education was tuition-free prior to 2003 and between 2008 and 2014. Whenever tuition fees for adult education were charged to students, the number of adult students quickly dropped below 20,000. Between 2000–01 and 2017–18, the number of adult students in public schools fell by 48.4%.   

The current government has once again made adult basic education free, effective September 1, 2018. Thanks to this, in one year, the number of adult students has increased 12.9%.

4graph6 

Source: Ministry of Education. (2019). BC Schools – Student Headcount
by Grade.


1 BC Ministry of Education. (2019). BC schools – Student Enrolment and FTE by Grade.

2 BC Ministry of Education. (2019). Projection of Public School Aged Headcount Enrolments.

3 BC Ministry of Education. (2019). BC Schools – Student Enrolment and FTE by Grade.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

6 Ministry of Education. (2019). BC Schools – Student Headcount by Grade.

7 Ministry of Advanced Education. (2016). Adult Basic Education: A Guide to Upgrading in British Columbia's Public Post-Secondary Institutions. An Articulation Handbook 2016/17 Edition. Victoria: Government of British Columbia. 


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