The Head’s Tale – Developing Active, Engaged, and Involved Citizens

Back in 1996, the UNESCO International Commission on Education for the 21st Century stated in the Delors Report that schools should no longer emphasize the acquisition of knowledge as a benchmark for their success or that of their students.  Instead, the Report defined the attributes of lifelong learning and more specifically, described what this should look like within a globalized world. At the time, the authors of the report felt strongly that education throughout life needed to be based on four pillars :

1. Learning to know—Being aware of world issues with the ability to contextualize news and current events from a myriad of perspectives (both past and present)

2. Learning to do—Being actively involved in solution building utilizing a variety of strategies, tools, and skills

3. Learning to live together—Developing attitudes and commitment to discovering and understanding others within a democracy

4. Learning to be—Demonstrating respect and empathy for self and others.

The concepts above continue to be goals that help shape schools all around the world. Though the aims do seem quite utopian, the overarching capacity to “learn how to learn” is even more significant and urgent today given the realities of our complex world where change is the only constant.  Polishing their abilities to explore different ways of thinking and doing, to build and make connections, and to seek out multiple perspectives, all while pursuing meaningful knowledge, helps students forge relationships with other people based on empathy and genuine care.  Skills such as curiosity, creativity, and “possibility thinking” are just as important as critical thinking, skillfully identifying problems or seeking new solutions.  The confidence to generate new ideas, combined with the willingness to experiment and execute in new ways, is the precursor to innovative thinking. 

At SMS, we support a well-rounded, inquiry-based educational environment that invites our girls to view learning as an adventure. Here, girls build competencies, self-awareness, and self-advocacy strategies.   We devote a great deal of time to making learning relevant by utilizing the most up to date resources: we leverage technology to extend learning beyond the classroom, we welcome experts into the classroom, and we create a myriad of opportunities to get our girls out into the broader community. Opportunities to travel are so much more than mere “holidays,” since our students are able to engage in meaningful exchange programs and service trips.

We value the importance of learning together, while honouring and utilizing the strengths and passions of individuals.  We also know the wisdom of learning that involves using our heads, hearts, and hands. Through our mission—confident girls/inspiring women—combined with our commitment to our core values of integrity, excellence, service, leadership, courage, and global-mindedness, we are truly developing active, engaged, and involved citizens.

Many of our girls will soon be returning from the Me to We Conference in Vancouver (an annual event that truly embraces the power of the collective). They will be inspired by the stories they hear, the people they meet, and the way they will experience all of this together. Each year, our students who attend events such as this one return to SMS feeling galvanized and ready for action. By fusing the four educational pillars noted above with our girls’ desire to “make a difference,” we enable our students to become empowered to create positive social change. These girls will shape the future—both locally and around the world.  

“I think. I question. I design. I create. I struggle. I collaborate. I try. I solve.

I invent. I reflect. I learn.

I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.”

Lily Tomlin as Edith-Ann


UNESCO Education Research and Foresight Occasional Papers: “Revisiting Learning: The Treasure Within: Assessing the Influence of the 1996 Delors Report.” January 2013.

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