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Independent Schools Foster Global Citizenship

BC’s independent schools foster critical thinking, empathy and social responsibility with globally-focused curriculum

Internationalism and global citizenship are essential in today’s interconnected world. They foster a deep understanding of diverse cultures, perspectives and global challenges, which is the foundation of a well-rounded worldview. Most importantly, understanding the world as a global community instills empathy and a sense of responsibility towards both local and global communities. That is why some of BC’s finest independent schools embed internationalism and globalism in their curriculum.

“This outlook not only enriches students’ personal growth but also significantly enhances their academic learning,” says Hazel Chee, Senior School Principal at Stratford Hall in Vancouver. “It provides a broader context for subjects such as history, economics and social studies, making the curriculum more relevant and engaging.”

Stratford Hall

Stratford Hall is an independent school offering the complete International Baccalaureate (IB) program. The IB curriculum is by nature designed to instill global awareness, citizenship and intercultural understanding. There are more than 5,000 IB schools worldwide, each connected to the next and bringing together thousands of educators from around to further understand different cultural perspectives when developing programs.

Stratford Hall is grounded in principles of pluralism and community, which means cultivating an international perspective that embraces cultural diversity and inclusivity while fostering engagement within both local and global communities.

“Students are encouraged to think beyond national borders, champion global awareness and develop leadership skills to contribute to a more interconnected and equitable world, in alignment with the IB program’s emphasis on international-mindedness and holistic global understanding,” Chee says.

Stratford Hall takes a multi-faceted approach to nurturing global citizenship in its students. “By prioritising pluralism and community, we encourage students to cultivate an international perspective, embracing the richness of diverse cultures and fostering inclusivity,” Chee says. “Through a rigorous language program, students gain proficiency in language acquisition, facilitating cross-cultural understanding and appreciation.”

Through service initiatives such as environmental conservation in Costa Rica, students learn the connection between place and local flora and fauna. Their actions in reforestation of mangroves and learning of Indigenous medicinal plants allows for growth in their appreciation of the unseen environmental services our earth provides.

“These trips also foster a strong local connection to the community, ranging from local trips to Indigenous communities to explore how local populations celebrated, lived and continue to thrive today allows for students to learn about not only the present but also past lives of Indigenous populations in Canada,” says Global Programs Coordinator Gladys Kong.

“These experiences also support students in exploring the world around them, to bring them to places where families may not have thought to go or an opportunity to dive deeper into local culture and practices.”

Collingwood School

Collingwood School in West Vancouver focuses on developing socially responsible students pursuing passions for a better world, starting with a personalized approach to learning for all students. Prioritizing forward-focused learning, building community, wellbeing and sustainability, the school provides authentic learning experiences connected to real world problems or issues where students develop cultural awareness and consider the broader global context of issues and challenges.

“We offer trips and activities through academic, athletic, arts and service-learning opportunities, to expose our students to different languages, cultures and lived experiences,” says Lisa Evans, head of school. “A strong community includes diverse minds and broad perspectives, and we explore what it means to live in a “connected world”, to break down barriers (i.e., in language, or by learning styles), so that we can appreciate and be inspired by others in the world.”

This learning starts early. In kindergarten, students exchange information about their local natural environment with students at Aubrick School in Brazil. In grade 4, they partner with students in South Korea to explore ways to connect Western and Eastern cultures, in a project called Crossing/Across the Big Blue that was proposed by a grade 11 Collingwood student.

In grades 6 and 7, students participate in a Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS) Student Leadership program, which is designed to engage and support the development of student leaders from CAIS Schools across Canada, including Bermuda.

Grade 7 students also have a 10-day exchange program with the Hackley School in New York, and in grades 8 and 9 they participate in a variety of off-campus excursions to develop awareness of the Metro Vancouver region and beyond while focussing on personal development of traits such as self-reliance, decision making and healthy relationships with peers.

By the time they reach grade 12, students are well-prepared for Entrepreneurship 12—designed like a university level business course—where they learn through case studies that span diverse industries and explore real-world problems.

“Our academic program is rooted in developing thinkers who are able to understand multiple perspectives of any given topic and transfer that learning and knowledge across disciplines to create novel solutions,” Evans says.


Aspengrove, an IB World School nestled in Lantzville on Vancouver Island, is on a mission to challenge and inspire the student community to act with purpose as compassionate, knowledgeable and principled global citizens. International perspectives are integrated throughout subjects, starting with the junior kindergarten classes through to grade 12.

“Service learning is a key component of our approach to global citizenship,” says Andrea Wyness, Middle Years Programme Coordinator. “Through research projects that address pressing global issues such as poverty, environmental and wildlife conservation, students gain a deeper understanding of these issues and have opportunities to actively contribute to making a difference.”

At the community level, students regularly volunteer with the local food bank and are always looking to collaborate with local organizations who make a direct impact on the Vancouver Island community.

Each year Aspengrove dedicates a day in their Primary Years Program to embrace cultural differences and celebrate diversity. Always a highlight, “Intercultural Day” invites students to showcase their cultural heritage through food, clothing, music and art. “Last year’s Intercultural Day featured a vibrant display of cultural dishes from over 20 countries,” Wyness says.

Language programs also play a pivotal role in broadening horizons. Aspengrove offers a diverse range of language courses, including Spanish, French and self-taught Mandarin. Students learn a second language starting at four-years-old, giving them the tools to connect with people from different backgrounds and cultures.

“We regularly invite guest speakers and conduct workshops on global topics,” Wyness says. “Recently a local Indigenous Elder spoke about the history and importance of Orange Shirt Day, inspiring students to take an active role in addressing the truth and reconciliation calls to action.”

Mulgrave School

Craig Davis, Head of School at Mulgrave in West Vancouver says understanding one’s own identity is a central part of wellbeing. “To become Global Citizens and thrive in a culturally diverse and interdependent world we believe students should have an understanding of their own (emerging) identity and the privileges and challenges they have,” he says. “They should also understand the identity of others and the privileges and struggles they face; and have the intercultural skills to connect with others.”

Students of all ages, from preschool to grade 12, engage in global citizenship learning activities and experiences that range from Units of Inquiry in the Early Years and Junior School to a year-long Grade 10 Global Citizenship course and a Global Citizenship Experiential Learning Programme (GEx) in Middle and Senior School.

“The grade 10 course enables students to become critically thoughtful and informed citizens who value an inclusive society and are comfortable examining their role as ally, advocate, and/or activist,” Davis says. “Students explore historical, social, economic and political developments and events and their impact on the lives of different individuals, groups and communities.”

These include First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in Canada and around the world since 1914. Students also explore issues of civic importance such as environmental responsibility and the policies needed to meaningfully engage with issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.

The GEx Programme includes a ‘week without walls’ in Vancouver or regionally in Canada, with optional international opportunities.

“Students expand their educational experiences, further develop their real-world leadership skills, and engage in meaningful and impactful learning experiences grounded in the UN Sustainable Development Goals through community partnerships,” Davis says.

“Fundamentally, our school values cultivate student commitment to the ‘greater good’ to inculcate a motivation to use privilege and education in the service of something bigger than themselves,” Davis says.


At its essence, global citizenry develops students to have a broader way of thinking and understanding that multiple responses to the same situation can be correct. “Our biases—individual to each of us, shaped by our contexts, situations and upbringings—influence our thinking,” says Meadowridge Head of School, Scott Banack. “As global citizens, we understand that our individual needs do not supersede the needs of society.”

As IB learners, students at Meadowridge learn from diverse authors, study multiple perspectives on history, acquire additional languages and, perhaps most importantly, develop critical thinking skills and the confidence to ask challenging questions. “Our children build a deeper appreciation and understanding of the natural world through intentional programming, including a variety of age-appropriate gardening, farming, camping and outdoor experiences,” Banack says.

Internationalism refers to cooperation and understanding between nations—teachers at Meadowridge focus on teaching the skills necessary for leaders to support internationalism.

“Developing empathy in our children, alongside the development of skills like communication, collaboration and critical thinking, provides our children with the opportunity to have a great positive impact on their world,” Banack says.

The world is becoming more interconnected than it ever was, making globalism more important than ever for today’s and future generations. “Global citizens, who carry a broader understanding and have a strong moral compass, are needed to lead our society as we deal with the challenges of a closely integrated world,” Banack says. “Our academic learning directly supports this initiative and is reflected in our mission: Learning to live well, with others and for others, in a just community.”

St. Margaret’s School

As an IB World School, St. Margaret’s School (SMS) welcomes students from around the world to study and live on campus, fostering a global perspective in education. “At SMS, leadership is about action and influence rather than a position. It is a commitment to helping others and an ongoing collaborative process that raises everyone to the highest levels of competence and morality, nurturing a sense of global citizenship among our students,” says Sharon Klein, Head of School at the girl-centred independent school in Victoria.

Today’s students are learning to lead during a time of profound social and environmental change. Guided by values of courage, care, challenge, curiosity and connection, SMS creates “thrivability” with a focus on STEM-X (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and experiential education).

“Eighty percent of people displaced by climate change are women, yet women continue to be underrepresented in STEM fields and global climate negotiation bodies,” Klein says. “It is more important than ever to engage girls in these areas, which is exactly what we do as Canada’s first girl-centred school focused on STEM.”

Extending the school community beyond that campus and into local and global communities, SMS fully supports eight Global Scholars through its scholarship program.

“These students, from countries such as Ukraine, Nepal and Afghanistan, add depth in our community and learning environment as we share different cultural experiences in education from around the world,” Klein says. “Our Global Scholars develop friendships with local and other international students as together they learn to collaborate on global issues and initiate meaningful and impactful action plans to share within our school community and beyond.”

The school’s Model UN, Scholars and Debate clubs supports students in grades 9-12 to tackle global issues that are debated and where ideas, values and perspectives are shared.

“SMS school motto is ‘Service with Love’,” Klein says. “This commitment to service creates an environment for our youth to be caring individuals who extend their actions of care to others, both locally and globally. Students are encouraged to live out our school motto, to be curious about the world and to work collaboratively to enact change.

Urban Academy

Urban Academy’s approach to promoting global citizenship begins in the classroom at a young age. Through empowering students to inquire about the world around them and their place in it, they hear from their peers who represent diverse backgrounds. Students and families lead Diwali, Hanukkah, Lunar New Year and many other cultural celebrations to help showcase the richness of the community and foster a greater global understanding.

Beginning in grade 8, students participate in Model UN to learn about how different countries perceive shared issues. By preparing position papers and representing perspectives that may be ‘other’ to theirs, they develop a greater perspective on global issues. Attending conferences allows them to gain an understanding of the international political landscape and how they may impact change.

“While we lay the groundwork for global citizenship in the classroom, developing true global citizens requires getting beyond the comfort of the classroom with opportunities to experience new cultures firsthand,” says Mike Slinger, Head of School for Urban Academy. “Grade eight and nine students explore another Canadian perspective with trips to Quebec, immersing themselves in the history and culture of our nation.”

In the senior years, students are able to take part in international travel such as an upcoming trip to Japan in 2024.

“Starting inside the classroom and then crafting immersive experiences allows students to step out of their comfort zones, build resilience and understanding, and ultimately become global citizens who are compassionate, informed and ready to make a positive impact on the world,” Slinger says.

Discover global education today:

Stratford Hall





St. Margaret’s School

Urban Academy

Created by BCBusiness in partnership with BC Independent Schools