‘International School’ is the term used to refer to an educational institution that promotes ‘international education in an international atmosphere’ by adopting a required curriculum or syllabus which differs from the country where the school is operational.
Such schools function mainly to teach students who are not nationals or citizens of the host country; they are ideally suited for children of people employed in foreign embassies or missions, international business organizations etc. Local students from the region around the school who wish to obtain a degree or suitable qualifications for further studies or a career, are also given admission into schools.
The concept of an international school began in the second half of the 19th century when they were set up in countries like Japan, Switzerland, Turkey and some others for families that travelled extensively, like missionaries, NGOs, embassies etc. These schools were set up with the help and assistance of the particular establishment that required the schools – e.g. defense establishments, scientific communities, diplomatic missions etc. – and based on the specific country’s school curriculum.
In due course, globalization and technology have created a spurt in schools around the world to cater to the increased movement of people around the world for work, business and other purposes; such movement has created generations of children living away from their country of origin and has necessitated the presence of international schools.
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In this context, improved national schools alone do not spell success; the benchmark for success depends on the educations systems that perform best internationally.
Criteria for an international school
In 2009, the International Association of School Librarianship decreed that an international school had to fit the following criteria:
• Multinational and multi-lingual student community
• A moving population of students
• Transferability of the student’s education – e.g. credits – across international schools
• International curriculum or syllabi
• International accreditation – e.g. International Baccalaureate (IB), Council of International Schools (CIS), University of Cambridge IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education), Schools Services etc.
• A multinational and transient teacher count and number
• Use of English or French as medium of instruction with the option of adding an additional language
• Non-selective student enrolment
Such schools have more or less the same curriculum as state and national schools – arts, humanities, information technology, language, mathematics, physical education, sciences etc. The method and mode of education is highly systemized and depends greatly on a technology induced classroom environment; periodical tests, assessments and grading of students are done on an ongoing basis.