What is an International School

A lot of people have misconceptions about what an international school is.

First, let me tell you what international schools are NOT… They are NOT “teaching English in China or Korea”, or “Teaching English in a local public school in a foreign country.”

Historically, international schools were established to educate the children of diplomats, NGOs or employees of large multinational corporations, like Shell Oil, Nike or Proctor and Gamble. Families posted overseas couldn’t send their kids to a local school, so that’s how international schools came to be. But now many international schools cater to host-national families. Now there is a huge range of schools – from 100% expatriate students to 100% host national students, and everything in between.

International schools are typically located in non-English speaking countries and they are run similar to a private schools in Canada or the United States. They are full Kindergarten to Grade 12 schools, with specialist subjects in Art, Music, PE, Drama, and World Languages, and many schools even offer a Preschool program. The medium of instruction is English, although there are now more bilingual schools, for example, English-Chinese schools in China, or English-Arabic schools in the Middle East.

International schools generally offer American, Canadian, British, Bilingual or National curriculums. Many offer the International Baccalaureate, or “IB Program”, which includes the PYP, MYP and the DP (Primary Years Programme, Middle Years Programme and the Diploma Program respectively).

There are over 12,000 international schools world-wide, and Search only represents approximately 750 of the top international schools. Not all international schools are the same!

Here are some characteristics of Search member schools.

  • Search member schools are fully accredited
  • The school year typically runs from mid-August to mid-June.
  • Enrollment ranges from 100 to 4,000 students.
  • Class sizes are small
  • Academic standards are generally high
  • There is often an EAL component to the student population, especially in the younger grades.
  • Behaviour issues are usually low (due to formal Admissions process)
  • Well-resourced with excellent facilities.
  • Strong extra-curricular and/or After School programs
  • Supportive parents
  • Strong sense of school community amongst teachers, students and parents