According to the latest figures released by ISC Research there are currently 6,512 international schools in 236 countries across the world. Student numbers broke the 3 million mark early in 2012 having experienced a phenomenal 300% growth over the last decade. It is expected that in another ten years there will be as many as 10,000 schools with more than 6 million children.

What makes an international school and, more importantly, what makes them so special and in such demand?

What is an international school?

An international school can be loosely categorised as one that promotes international education in an international environment. This is usually achieved by following an international curriculum, such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) or Cambridge International Examinations.
At a recent conference in Italy an attempt was made to outline in greater detail the typical characteristics of international schools. Characteristics that can be expected included:

  • Having an explicit aim to make a student’s transfer between one international school and another as seamless as possible.
  • Having a mobile student population that is multinational and multilingual. The school will usually have a non-selective enrolment policy.
  • Following an international curriculum(such as the IB Programme for Primary Years, Middle Years or Diploma.)
  • Holding international accreditation from bodies like the CIS, IBO or North Eastern ASC.
  • Having a multinational teacher population.
  • Delivering instruction in English or offering a bilingual approach with English as one of the languages.

It is not just an international student body that makes an international school but a determinedly international ethos. The IB Programme was born in the 1960’s from questions asked immediately following the Second World War concerning “Is There a Way of Teaching for Peace?” The mission statements of international schools, like the IC School in London, still reflect this international idealism.

“ICS aims for educational excellence by developing independent, inquiring and collaborative learners within a safe, enjoyable and stimulating environment. We believe in celebrating our diversity and in supporting our students to become happy and successful world citizens.”

What makes international schools so successful?

For many expats international schools are the best ways to ensure continuity in their children’s education as they move from country to country. For children wishing to learn English the schools often offer this as a – if not the – medium of instruction. There is no doubt that the mixed student bodies give children a chance to learn about others but also to network globally rather than just with others who happen to fall in the catchment area of their school. Finally the IB Programme itself has been praised for its cross curricular approach and is a highly respected qualification to hold.

As the global economy and society takes ever deeper hold across the world you can expect more international schools and, as a consequence, more happy and successful world citizens.

This is a guest post. I hope you find this information helpful.