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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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