"It's about fostering cultural awareness, a deeper understanding of international perspectives and an appreciation for the fact that things are done differently all over the world," says Dr. Elizabeth Moore, executive director of the Independent Schools Association of British Columbia. "We want our students to be broad-minded, tolerant, and knowledgeable because all of these things will contribute to being able to live harmoniously in a multicultural world."
Exposure to this type of global education begins as early as kindergarten in many private or independent schools. As the world becomes smaller and more interconnected, students require a better sense of cultural literacy in order to work and live within a global context. Extending the global classroom beyond the walls of school, many independent schools organize service-learning trips, exchange programs, and cultural, sports and academic expeditions to help students see the world beyond the walls of their classroom and develop an awareness of the world outside their own frame of reference. "We have groups travelling to China to learn about food, culture and language; others travelling to Guatemala and Kenya to work with underprivileged schools in small communities; and others studying subjects like history on location in France and England," Moore says.
Global education programs like the Students Act Now and Global Experience Programs at Havergal College "seek to expose students to the perspectives and lives of others, enable students to engage in real-world problem solving and build direct and mutual partnerships to address a shared purpose."
Private schools broaden minds to learn from multiple perspectives, students at St. John's-Ravenscourt School in Winnipeg team up with kids their age living in India to share ideas, collaborate on environmental initiatives and develop communication skills through Skype, Facebook, email and a trip to India.
"I'll never forget the last night of our trip when the Indian students came to the apartment we were staying in and we turned the common room into a dance floor," says Mary Ellen Campbell, the teacher coordinator of the India Connection program and head of the social studies department. "Dance is such a huge part of Indian culture and the kids all dressed in traditional outfits and danced late into the night. This experience truly transcended the barriers of language, class, culture and religion, and brought the students even closer together."
It's important for students to step outside their comfort zones to experience how others live, Moore says. This awareness goes a long way in helping young people see the world from more than just their own frame of reference and develop into true global citizens.