A Humanistic Approach to Education

Queen Margaret’s School – Canada

by Alexandre von Hornstein

(PPE)Politics,Philosophy and Economics student at the University of York

MARCH 23, 2021

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Nelson Mandela

Education for life – Queen Margaret’s School - Canada




Tucked away in the awe inspiring nature of British Columbia - Canada, Queen Margaret’s School (QMS) is gearing up to celebrate its centennial anniversary.


Established on the 4th of April, 1921, the school´s founders, Norah Creina Denny and Dorothy Rachel Geoghegan wanted to provide a solid but more ‘humanistic’ education, inspiring a culture of service, integrity, and faith, but most of all, they wanted to instil an ‘undefeatable confidence’, empowering students to make a difference.

Already then, the founders of QMS recognised that the fundamental purpose of education is to sustain and enhance the dignity, capacity and welfare of the human person in relation to others and nature, allowing each students to enter the world on their own terms without having to bend to ‘conformity and compliance.’

The school’s rich curriculum not only guided students to understand the world around them, but more importantly, the talents within them, enabling each student to become fulfilled individuals, and active, compassionate citizens.

In June 2018, the Board of Directors approved to focus on programmes of experiential & inquiry-based learning, sustainable innovation and entrepreneurial thinking, and equine-facilitated leadership development. As part of QMS' pillar of gender equity and fairness, the board further announced that all genders would be welcome to study Preschool-Grade 12 in a safe, inclusive environment beginning in September 2019. 

Then in March 2020, just when the world was gripped by Covid-19, the Board had the foresight to secure the services of David Robertson.   Stepping out of retirement, Robertson relished his return to a Head’s role particularly as a result of the support given by the Board in general but also of the Chair, Mary DeLury, specifically. Their synergy is impressive.

With over 40 years of expertise and 25 years of leadership at Shawnigan Lake School, Robertson’s experience is striking-  but what stands out more, is his ability to amplify each students purpose, guiding them on an authentic path of individual development. His approach to education, is without a doubt, transformative and dynamic.



Reflecting on the future, Robertson underlined,

“I think the real purpose of education is to produce a better world. That's what I'd like to think. And by developing thoroughly good human beings, students become compassionate and kind problem solvers, that can bring creative solutions to every situation…but you can't lose the human piece because as we are seeing in some parts of the world, that type of leadership is sadly lacking and it's producing devastatingly poor results.


Upholding the dream of school´s founders, Robertson and his dedicated team continue to shape an environment that brings out the unique creative energy within each student.  He believes firmly that students must have a sense of individual purpose, to understand their own talents, motivations and passions – including a sense of responsibility to serve and to give back.


As Robertson noted “The character you build is yours forever”.  It is with this mantra in mind that one can understand the emphasis that QMS places in the individual development of students as highlighted by Robertson.

“Development is fundamental to the school. And of course, there´s an emphasis on service. Right?  Because it's in giving that we receive. Right from the beginning QMS included in the school’s motto ‘service’ inspiring students to get involved in service initiatives for the larger community from a very early age”


Then and now, a QMS education can only be described as exceptional beyond expectations, and continues to be undoubtedly, the place where individual development and creativity prosper.


Sir Ken Robinson once said:

It’s through creativity that we develop our architecture, our scientific proofs, and our works of art. We don’t just live in the world as we find it, we create civilizations, theories, technologies, as we reach beyond the planet. 


It’s rather difficult to determine what knowledge, skills and talents will be necessary for the future. What must students learn that will be relevant in 20 years?    With these uncertainties we can only create the right conditions in education - then miracles will happen that will catapult students and the world forward.  A system of conformity and compliance leaves no space for this type of exploration.


And so…as QMS steps into the next 100 years and beyond, I must give a standing ovation, not only for this remarkable school and the outstanding leadership of David Robertson and his team, but also as a calling to educators, to inspire and create learning environments that will allow individual students to thrive and flourish.


Celebrate well QMS!



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David Robertson - Head Master