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5 Trends in Private Education

The arts. Schools are redefining what it means to be ‘smart’ through unconventional means: the arts. Research shows studying the arts may not only help students get good grades, but is linked to social and emotional development, problem-solving, cognitive ability, critical thinking, creativity, empathy, innovation, collaboration, leadership, and a wide range of higher-order thinking skills. Reinforcing the benefits of creativity in his ground-breaking book, A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink argues that creative individuals are the ones poised to become successful and rule the world.

Exposure to the arts, namely music, has been found to help children in academic areas including math and languages, while also boosting their intelligence, attention, and memory. “All these skills are linked to the brain’s executive function, which includes cognitive processes such as planning, problem-solving, memory, and attention,” explains Dr. Sylvain Moreno, lead scientist at Baycrest’s Centre for Brain Fitness.

The easiest way to train the brain’s executive function? The arts.

Many private schools are embracing innovative arts programs that open up such opportunities as producing and performing in Broadway-style musicals, dancing under the instruction of seasoned professionals, and studying renowned visual artists through subjects like history, social sciences, literature, and science. With state-of-the-art music, drama, dance, fine arts, and digital arts programs, private schools recognize the value of arts education in shaping well-rounded students equipped with the skills and abilities needed to be successful academically and in the workplace.

What’s more, while some youth may struggle with learning or language acquisition, the arts can help break down these barriers and allow students to shine. “Arts education gives kids the courage to take risks, and the confidence to know they can succeed,” says Alison Wall, head of Brockton Preparatory School.

2. Science and technology.

Astechnology evolves, many private schools forge ahead as digital innovators:

  • Lessons are enhanced using Smart Boards, or interactive digital whiteboards.
  • Teachers are using social media, blogs, and wikis to do group work and promote collaboration.
  • Some schools have found ways to counteract the distractions of smartphones by integrating them into learning.
  • iPads are being used to teach both academic and social skills to kindergartners.

With the financial resources in place, private schools are equipped to move ahead with the adoption and implementation of new technologies to prepare students for university and beyond, says Lesley Monette, director of the Conference of Independent Schools eLearning Consortium. “Technology promotes creative ways of teaching and caters to all types of learners, all types of cooperation and collaboration of learners,” says Monette. “The skills acquired through e-learning are invaluable and include time management, self-directed learning, cooperation, and collaboration.”

3. Environment. Private schools across Canada have made it an integral part of their mission to teach environmental education. Many private schools realize that in order to get students to care about environmental protection and sustainability, they must first help them build a hands-on relationship with nature. For this reason, outdoor and experiential education programs are gaining popularity. From going on dog-sledding adventures and taking overnight camping trips to growing community gardens and learning about science while exploring ponds, private schools are exposing kids to outdoor activities they’re not used to in their daily screen-saturated lives.

4. Global environment. A new generation of global citizens is being educated in private schools. Whether travelling abroad to help a community in need, learning a new language, or developing diversity awareness initiatives in their own classrooms,private school students have more opportunities than ever to broaden their knowledge and understanding of international perspectives to help them integrate into a multicultural world. “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.

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,” says Moore.

It’s important for students to step outside their comfort zones to experience how others live, says Moore. 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.

5. Health. A school’s responsibility is to raise healthy students, not just educate them. Health and wellness has become more of a priority for schools given the significant increase in stress, anxiety, and depression among North American youth, coupled with numerous high-profile cases of suicides and bullying. While many factors, such as genetics and biology, contribute to mental health issues, environmental influences, including an increased pressure to succeed and fit in, are weighing on many young people.

When it comes to stamping out bullying and nurturing a supportive community, private schools have stepped up to the plate with extensive health and wellness programs, counselling services, and mental health resources to help students get support, cope, and thrive. With a focus on prevention, private schools are able to boost self-confidence, self-awareness, and engagement in learning and wellness. “We recognize and accept that children and adolescents struggle with similar emotional, social, and mental health issues as adults do, and these can significantly impact their academic experience if not supported appropriately,” says Jana-Lynn Caines, a psychologist and school counsellor at Rundle Academy.

In the end, empowering youth to take responsibility for their learning has proven beneficial to their overall mental health. In many private schools where teachers provide individualized attention, students are being given hands-on opportunities to learn and grow at their own pace, helping to boost their self-confidence.

Our Kids is Canada’s most trusted source for families who are looking for the best learning and living experiences for their children. To learn more, visit and follow them on Facebook,, and Twitter @ourkidsnet. Reprinted with permission by Our Kids.

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