What Does it Mean to be a Global Citizen?

By School House

7 years ago

These are the schools preparing pupils to live and work in an international world

Charity may begin at home, but smart schools know that imparting an ethos of giving and community service benefits both students and the wider world.

Wellington College community service

Wellington College in Nepal

Pupils learning the value of community service while still at school will go on to find their way in the world more successfully, say heads, whether they choose to work in politics, business or teaching.

To be a truly global citizen requires more than just raising money for overseas aid or taking a gap year.

Below we profile the schools serving their communities at home and abroad. Plus heads share their philosophies on what makes a global citizen.

Schools and community service

The buzzword at Sevenoaks School, Kent, is ‘service’; students develop maturity, confidence and a sense of community through service, say staff, which can range from teaching and playing with younger pupils at local primary schools, to visiting the elderly, working in day centres for disabled adults, or travelling to India or Romania to help with orphanages and poor children.

Charity is not the only tool for personal development. Many independent schools are involved with the Model United Nations (MUN) programme; girls from Benenden, Kent, were one of the top five MUN schools in the world at The Hague International Conference.

Mandarin is compulsory at St Mary’s Calne but girls don’t just learn the language, they learn about the culture too, in the classroom and with occasional trips to China.

Sevenoaks School Community Service

Sevenoaks pupils teach at school in Rajasthan

Not all schemes are so cerebral; Eton Plus is an experiential, action-based course focused on resolving real-life problems through successful collaboration. Twenty-five Etonians rough it with 25 state school boys in the Scottish Highlands, learning leadership skills through empathy and service.

The grand daddy of skills-based experiences is the Duke of Edinburgh’s (DofE) Award scheme, 60 years old in 2016 which is one of the best ways to learn teamwork.

But being a global citizen is not just about earning well. It’s about learning resilience and empathy. Rosie Croysdale, 16, at ACS Hillingdon International, visited eye camps in rural India, supported by Orbis, the global sight-saving charity. ‘I am now seriously considering working with charities,’ says Rosie. ‘I came away from the experience feeling empowered and motivated.’

What the heads say…

St Augustine’s Priory

Sarah Raffray, head of independent London girls’ school St Augustine’s Priory, explains that pupils – especially introspective teenagers – need to be encouraged to look outside their own world, through charity work but also community groups, school parliaments or UN schemes, and by learning languages.

‘We need to help pupils learn who they are in order for them to become good global citizens,’ says Raffray. ‘They need to be strong human beings, particularly as the internet has ‘shrunk’ the world. I know parents are both worried and excited about the global aspect of their children’s futures.’

Wellington College

Robin Dyer is the second master of Wellington College, a member of Round Square. He says, ‘It is imperative that our students understand the cultural, linguistic and religious challenges that they will face during their lifetimes; our focus on this will help them to thrive in a competitive, global market place.’

Downe House

Emma McKendrick, head of Downe House, Berkshire believes ‘it is critical that our girls recognise that we live within a global context and that we work hard to help them experience it’.


Sarah Thomas, head of Bryanston, Dorset argues that it is important for pupils, ‘to understand how they can contribute to the wider world’.

ACS Egham

Alan Perkins, International Baccalaureate (IB) coordinator at ACS Egham International School, believes that the Creativity, Action, Service (CAS) modules – compulsory parts of the IB Diploma Programme – are perfect. ‘When people have real experience of environments and cultures different from their own, they remember those experiences and feel empowered to advocate positive change’.

Marymount International School

Acquiring a global perspective can only enhance career possibilities. Karin Purcell, development director of Marymount, an international senior girls’ school, warns that children, ‘not only need good results and a good grasp of languages, but also a global understanding’.

READ MORE: How Schools are Giving Back to the Community