From an early age, girls learn they “don’t make the cut” — research shows that boys tend to dominate classroom discussions, are seen as better learners, and are even given more attention than girls by teachers. Time and time again, girls have to stand up and stand out to “make the cut” and assume leadership roles.
Women all over the world still fight for an equal standing in every setting — the classroom, the workplace, and even in politics. In an era where female CEOs at the top of their game still struggle to be recognised, safe spaces where girls can be seen and heard become precious commodities. Nestled in the vibrant town of Greenfield, Massachusetts, is an International Baccalaureate (IB) girls school that addresses this issue.
Since its foundation in 1869, Stoneleigh-Burnham School has focused on helping young students find and shape their own authentic selves. The institution recognises the benefits of a girls setting, which is why they zero in on the development of their individually tailored education above all else.
It’s a strategy that works — nearly 80% of girls’ school students report that their classes challenge them to achieve their full academic potential compared to only 44% of girls at co-educational public schools. A whopping 93% of girls’ school graduates confirmed they were offered greater leadership opportunities than their co-educated peers, with 80% of them having held leadership positions since high school.
Pair that with the small class sizes of around 10 students at Stoneleigh-Burnham and you get deep relationships between faculty members and students as well as individual attention. The result? Students who know who they are as learners and recognise that their place in society is important.
“Through our course of study and community programmes, SBS students explore diverse ideas, develop cultural competencies, and connect their learning to a greater global context,” says Rose Chaffee-Cohen, IB Programme Coordinator.
The school highlights the pursuit of excellence in all its forms, especially having a mind of your own. Lucy, a class of 2026 student at Stoneleigh-Burnham confirms this independent aspect of learning: “I think being in a classroom at Stoneleigh-Burnham is different from other schools because I feel like the students here really want to learn and want to become [part of] a community.”
The institution built by women for young women is academically rigorous, but it is also a community that fosters an international perspective. Students from at least nine different countries flock to this New England boarding school to spend their years learning from each other, understanding new cultures, and accepting different ways of living and thinking. Unsurprisingly, it is this ability to succeed in a multicultural environment that makes Stoneleigh-Burnham students more well-rounded, a trait highly valued by top universities like Princeton University, Duke University, Brown University, Stanford University, Cornell University, and New York University.
Indeed, the Stoneleigh-Burnham student experience is encapsulated in making them the agent of their learning. In addition to the benefits of being a globally-oriented IB school for girls, the institution launched a one-year Voice and Empowerment Certificate Programme for 10th graders, designed to emphasise the finding of one’s voice, develop an expertise in speech and debate, and focus on rhetoric that occurs in an otherwise typical school year.
Complementing the other opportunities available at Stoneleigh-Burnham such as the Performing Arts Camp and the Horsemanship Day Camp, the Voice and Empowerment Certificate Programme lets students spend a year honing their skills of expression and leadership beyond traditional academia.
With the new VOICE 10 programme, the 153 year old institute of learning breaks boundaries yet again — it is the only girls school in the US that delivers a year-long foundational voice and empowerment curriculum. When students take part in VOICE 10, they choose to study within the framework of a world-class debate and public speaking programme and immerse themselves in a boarding school environment.
Why voice and empowerment? Stoneleigh-Burnham believes that it is — and should be — an essential part of the growth process because it deals with knowing where you stand. The world is a better place when students are able to build their own unique voices, explore their opinions, develop their own arguments, and practice advocacy for themselves and people around them.
Numbers prove this initiative’s impact. To date, 20 Stoneleigh-Burnham students have ranked and participated in the World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championship. Whether it’s grade 7 or grade 12, voice and empowerment is foundational to the teaching and learning at Stoneleigh-Burnham School.
If you seek a unique educational experience where your daughter can focus on finding, developing, and using her voice, learn more about Stoneleigh-Burnham School here.