Ed­u­ca­tional Ad­van­tage

There are nu­mer­ous choices if par­ents choose to place their chil­dren in in­de­pen­dent schools: an in­de­pen­dent-school education of­fers the nec­es­sary skills needed to meet the de­mands of an in­creas­ingly tech­no­log­i­cal and global world

BC Business Magazine - - Independent Schools -

While find­ing the right ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tion may seem daunt­ing, there is a free re­source avail­able to as­sist: Our Kids Me­dia is one of the best means for par­ents search­ing for a pri­vate school for their child. It is Canada’s only free and largest web­site ded­i­cated solely to pri­vate education.

“Our Kids pro­vides hon­est, third-party in­for­ma­tion and re­search tools, al­low­ing par­ents to ef­fi­ciently and quickly gain a sense of their school­ing op­tions, as well as in­sight into the process of find­ing the aca­demic en­vi­ron­ment that best sup­ports their learner,” says Our Kids Me­dia man­ag­ing ed­i­tor Agnes Staw­icki. “Ourkids.net has in­for­ma­tion about schools not found on any other web­site, in an easy to com­pare for­mat, mak­ing re­search­ing schools so much eas­ier for par­ents and stu­dents.”

Once par­ents have eval­u­ated their chil­dren’s needs, they can visit fairs, such as the 12th An­nual Our Kids Pri­vate School Ex­pos on Nov. 19 at the Van­cou­ver Sher­a­ton Wall Cen­tre. Fo­rums like these pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity to meet with ex­hibit­ing pri­vate schools and education con­sul­tants.

“Meet­ing with many schools in one af­ter­noon is so help­ful. Many fam­i­lies at­tend­ing the Our Kids Pri­vate School Expo do so be­cause of the work­shops and panel Q&AS on school choice, fi­nan­cial plan­ning, and nav­i­gat­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion process,” adds Staw­icki.

Hark­ness phi­los­o­phy

Since Southridge School opened its doors in South Sur­rey in 1995, it has looked for cre­ative and for­ward-think­ing ways to

en­gage its stu­dents. For more than six years, Southridge has been teach­ing its Se­nior School Stu­dents (Grades 8-12), through the Hark­ness phi­los­o­phy, the form in which stu­dents are seated to­gether around a Hark­ness table with their teacher, as op­posed to stu­dents seated at desks fac­ing a teacher at the front of the class­room.

“This stu­dent-cen­tered model of teach­ing com­pels ev­ery stu­dent to be part of the dis­cus­sion,” says head of school Drew Stephens. “Teach­ers par­tic­i­pate in dis­cus­sions and guide stu­dents with­out lec­tur­ing.”

As the only school in B.C. of­fer­ing the Hark­ness phi­los­o­phy across the en­tire Grade 8-12 cur­ricu­lum, Southridge Se­nior School in­cor­po­rates large oval ta­bles around which lively and thought-pro­vok­ing con­ver­sa­tions take place daily in ev­ery class­room.

“We im­ple­mented the Hark­ness phi­los­o­phy when the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment no longer re­quired ex­ams in ev­ery sub­ject,” Stephens ex­plains, adding that Hark­ness aligned with their own phi­los­o­phy of teach­ing.

“Our fac­ulty has em­braced the Hark­ness phi­los­o­phy with en­thu­si­asm,” ex­plains Stephens, adding: “The level of ar­tic­u­la­tion and the way stu­dents ex­press them­selves around the table is ex­cit­ing to wit­ness; our stu­dents are more con­fi­dent and are bet­ter able to ex­press their ideas than ever be­fore.”

Com­mit­ted to stu­dents

Vic­to­ria’s St. Mar­garet’s School is Western Canada’s old­est only all-girls day and board­ing school. Es­tab­lished in 1908, it is one of the lead­ing in­de­pen­dent day and board­ing schools in the prov­ince. Cathy Thor­ni­croft, head of school, says one of its strengths is that the fac­ulty is deeply com­mit­ted to its stu­dents’ cog­ni­tive and per­sonal well-be­ing.

“Our tag line is: Con­fi­dent girls, in­spir­ing women,” says Thor­ni­croft. “At St. Mar­garet’s, we are con­stantly chal­leng­ing our girls to be self-as­sured young women; ones who can go out into the world and be­come the next gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers.”

St. Mar­garet’s pre­pares its stu­dents to con­sider ca­reers in fields once dom­i­nated

by men, and in 2014, the school in­tro­duced its flag­ship pro­gram, STEM (an acro­nym for sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, engi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics).

STEM is em­bed­ded in all as­pects of St. Mar­garet’s cur­ricu­lum, in­clud­ing its elec­tives.

“His­tor­i­cally, girls haven’t pur­sued ca­reers in STEM,” says Thor­ni­croft. “We are telling our girls that not only are they ca­pa­ble, they can thrive in these fields.”

In fact, since STEM was launched, St. Mar­garet’s has seen a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of its grad­u­ates go­ing onto post-sec­ondary in­sti­tu­tions to study these dis­ci­plines. “We are find­ing nearly half of our girls are choos­ing to pur­sue STEM ca­reers,” she adds.

Mul­ti­cul­tural fo­cus

West Van­cou­ver’s Mul­grave School—an in­de­pen­dent, sec­u­lar, co-ed­u­ca­tional school with just un­der 900 stu­dents—has cre­ated an ex­cit­ing global class­room.

“Mul­grave has a strong multi-cul­tural fo­cus in which our stu­dents are de­vel­op­ing cross-cul­tural com­pe­tency and knowl­edge,” says Mul­grave’s head of school John Wray, adding that its stu­dents come from 44 dif­fer­ent na­tion­al­i­ties. “Our em­pha­sis is also on hav­ing our stu­dents un­der­stand coun­tries’ cul­tural, re­li­gious and val­ue­based dif­fer­ences so they learn to re­spect and un­der­stand other peo­ple’s be­liefs.”

All of its stu­dents, from pre-kinder­garten to Grade 12, study mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism in depth to sup­port more young peo­ple to think, act and live as glob­ally com­pe­tent cit­i­zens.

To learn to de­velop a global mind­set, it starts with a com­pul­sory se­cond lan­guage fo­cus.

“I think for our chil­dren to be suc­cess­ful and more en­gaged in our in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity and the world, learn­ing an­other lan­guage is re­ally im­por­tant,” Wray says. “We for­mally teach French, Span­ish, Chi­nese, and we work with a num­ber of tu­tors who teach such lan­guages as Farsi and Korean.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, Mul­grave stu­dents go be­yond what Wray calls the Four Fs: flags, fes­ti­vals, food and fash­ion, in or­der to delve more deeply and mean­ing­fully into cul­tural dif­fer­ences, val­ues and re­li­gions.

“Not only is it key for our stu­dents to learn about dif­fer­ent eth­nic­i­ties, but they need to look deeply into all as­pects of an­other coun­try’s way of life,” adds Wray.

Rep­u­ta­tion earned

Es­tab­lished in 1923, Van­cou­ver Is­land’s Brent­wood Col­lege School has earned a rep­u­ta­tion as one of Canada’s best board­ing schools. Like many co-ed uni­ver­sity prepara­tory board­ing schools across the coun­try, it prides it­self on in­no­va­tive and unique pro­grams.

How­ever, a core el­e­ment of Brent­wood’s suc­cess lies in its ap­pli­ca­tion process. One of its most im­por­tant com­po­nents, says head of school Bud Pa­tel, con­sists of one sim­ple, yet sig­nif­i­cant, ques­tion: Is it your choice to at­tend Brent­wood?

“Since 2006, in­ter­views with par­ents and prospec­tive stu­dents have been con­ducted separately,” says Pa­tel. “This is im­por­tant be­cause we want stu­dents who want to be fully en­gaged in our school cul­ture.”

This phi­los­o­phy of choice cre­ates a warm, friendly and pas­sion­ate com­mu­nity of learn­ers and lead­ers that en­com­pass Brent­wood’s phi­los­o­phy.

“You can have great teach­ers, fa­cil­i­ties and pro­grams, but if you don’t have a pos­i­tive peer cul­ture, you will have prob­lems,” adds Pa­tel.

Ev­ery year, fac­ulty in­ter­views the stu­dents, who in­vari­ably tell them that the school cul­ti­vates an en­vi­ron­ment where it is cool to achieve ex­cel­lence, where it’s OK to be au­then­tic, and where they cre­ate long-last­ing re­la­tion­ships with their peers.

Em­pha­sis on ex­cel­lence

As an in­no­va­tive and pro­gres­sive In­ter­na­tional Bac­calau­re­ate World School of 550 stu­dents from KG to Grade 12, South Delta’s South­pointe Academy con­tin­ues its strong em­pha­sis on →

ed­u­ca­tional ex­cel­lence, as well as char­ac­ter build­ing.

As such, South­pointe’s head of school, Dean Croy, prom­ises par­ents that their chil­dren will re­ceive the best aca­demic education by learn­ing skills and habits that will serve them well through­out their pro­fes­sional and per­sonal adult lives.

South­pointe Academy fea­tures a dis­tinc­tive global cur­ricu­lum, de­liv­ered in a pro­gres­sive way; one that best pre­pares its stu­dents for pre­em­i­nent uni­ver­si­ties of the world. One of its sig­na­ture pro­grams is AP Cap­stone, which is de­signed to pro­vide mo­ti­vated high school stu­dents with the op­por­tu­nity to take uni­ver­sity-level aca­demic cour­ses while still in sec­ondary school.

“AP Cap­stone com­prises two new uni­ver­sity-level cour­ses—ap Sem­i­nar and AP Re­search—with four spe­cific AP mod­ules (in any sub­ject), for a to­tal of six AP cour­ses,” says Croy. “In AP Re­search, stu­dents must write a 5,000-word aca­demic pa­per on a topic of their choos­ing, one they must de­fend both orally and on pa­per, thus pre­par­ing stu­dents for the best and most elite uni­ver­si­ties in the world.” AP Cap­stone adds an­other di­men­sion to pre­pare stu­dents for top tiered, rig­or­ous uni­ver­si­ties.

In­clu­sive val­ues

Founded in 1996, Van­cou­ver’s West Point Grey Academy ( WPGA) con­tin­ues to em­brace new ideas and ways of think­ing as the only Canadian mem­ber of Global On­line Academy ( GOA), a con­sor­tium of 70 lead­ing in­de­pen­dent schools in 13 coun­tries.

“Our teach­ers have been ac­tively in­volved with Global On­line Academy’s com­pe­tency-based blended learn­ing cour­ses, which give our stu­dents the op­por­tu­nity to en­gage with peers and teach­ers from schools world­wide on top­ics and is­sues that af­fect us all,” says Tam Matthews, head of school of West Point Grey Academy. “We are proud to be part of this pro­gram, which com­ple­ments our core val­ues of Glob­ally In­spired and Aca­dem­i­cally In­no­va­tive.”

With its open, in­clu­sive cul­ture and strong em­pha­sis on the stu­dent voice, West Point Grey Academy is a school ex­pe­ri­ence like no other.

In WPGA’S Global Stud­ies Diploma Pro­gram, stu­dents ben­e­fit by men­tor­ing with grad­u­ate stu­dents from UBC’S Liu In­sti­tute for Global Is­sues, and fo­cus on re­search­ing and cre­at­ing so­lu­tions to com­plex so­ci­etal is­sues that can be im­ple­mented at a lo­cal level.

These ini­tia­tives and the school’s Lan­guages, Com­mu­nity Ser­vice, In­ter­na­tional Out­reach, Char­ac­ter Education, Mind­ful­ness, and Out­door En­vi­ron­men­tal pro­grams guide WPGA stu­dents to be­come com­pas­sion­ate cit­i­zens who are re­flec­tive of the school’s mis­sion of “shap­ing lives of in­quiry, ac­tion and joy.”

Stu­dents at Southridge ex­plore many ed­u­ca­tional av­enues, from academia to arts, in their pur­suit of cre­ativ­ity and suc­cess. Pic­tured here, Grade 12 stu­dent Danni Ma's pen­cil and soft char­coal work

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