International Schools

Everything You Need to Know About International Schools: A Comprehensive Guide


The world of education has expanded beyond borders, with international schools becoming increasingly popular choices for families around the globe. If you’re new to the concept of international schools and are curious about how they work, this comprehensive guide will provide you with all the essential information you need.

What are International Schools?

International schools play a vital role in expat communities and families residing in different countries. These schools offer education to students of all ages and are often associated with countries other than their location. For example, you can find French, German, and American international schools in various parts of the world.

In 2009, the International Association of School Librarianship (IASL) defined international schools based on several criteria:

  • Transferable Education: The student’s education is transferable across other international schools.
  • Mobile Population: International schools have a higher proportion of mobile students compared to state schools.
  • Multilingual and Multinational: International schools have a diverse student body representing different nationalities and languages.
  • International Curriculum: Students follow an international curriculum.
  • International Accreditation: International schools are accredited by recognized bodies such as the Council of British International Schools (COBIS) or the Council of International Schools (CIS).
  • Non-Selective: International schools do not have selective admission processes.
  • Language of Instruction: English is usually the principal or bilingual language of instruction, although exceptions exist.

It’s important to note that while these criteria provide a general understanding, some international schools may have selective admission policies.

How do International Schools Work?

International schools offer an education system aligned with the curriculum of a specific country, helping students transition smoothly into their new environment. For instance, the Alice Smith School in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, follows the UK curriculum, providing a comprehensive education from ages 3 to 18.

One of the main advantages of international schools is the international recognition of their curricula. This ensures that students can transfer between international schools seamlessly, and their exams hold validity in other countries. Common curricula found in international schools include the English National Curriculum, the International Baccalaureate (IB), International GCSEs or IGCSEs, and the International Primary Curriculum (IPC).

Are International Schools Superior?

The quality of education in international schools depends on various factors, including the caliber of teachers and school management. International schools offer unique benefits to students, such as the opportunity to interact with peers from diverse cultural backgrounds. Students learn about different countries, customs, and traditions, fostering both educational and social growth.

Comparing international schools to other schools is not about superiority. International schools provide a multicultural, global learning environment, while local schools are often more focused on local cultures and communities.

Are International Schools Private?

International schools are typically private institutions, but there are distinctions between for-profit and not-for-profit schools. Both types reinvest in the school and its students. For-profit international schools allocate a portion of their fees to shareholders or owners, while not-for-profit schools, often with charitable status, utilize all their income for the benefit of the school and its students.

What are the Costs of International Schools?

International school fees vary depending on factors such as location, facilities, teachers, and curriculum. On average, fees can range from £8,000 to £49,000 per year, with most schools averaging around £20,000 annually. Boarding facilities may incur additional costs. Some employers provide education fee subsidies to support families in a new country, and bursaries and scholarships may also be available.

Admission requirements can differ among international schools. Certain schools may require students to meet specific academic standards or undergo an assessment process or admission exam. Conducting thorough research before selecting an international school is crucial.

The Benefits of International Schools

Choosing a British international school for your children’s education offers numerous benefits, including:

  • Multicultural Education: International schools provide students with a well-rounded, multicultural education, offering opportunities to collaborate with peers from diverse backgrounds.
  • Smooth Transitions: International schools excel at helping students settle into new environments, making friends quickly due to the mobile nature of their student body.
  • Flexibility: International schools often accommodate cultural or religious events and family visits to the students’ home countries during term time.
  • Global Recognition: International school curricula and exams are widely recognized and accepted by top schools, colleges, universities, and employers worldwide.
  • Talented Teachers: Many international schools attract excellent, talented teachers who have often received training and worked in the UK.
  • Extracurricular Activities: International schools offer a wide range of high-quality extracurricular activities, including volunteering, performing arts, and sports.

Choosing the Right International School

Several factors should be considered before selecting an international school for your child, including:

  • Location: Consider the school’s location and its proximity to your residence.
  • Curriculum and Teaching Style: Understand the curriculum and teaching style of the school.
  • Language Offerings: Determine the languages offered, including English and others.
  • Further Education: Evaluate the qualifications provided by the school for future education.
  • Academic Results and Reputation: Research the school’s previous academic results and its reputation within the community.
  • Extracurricular Activities: Consider the variety and quality of extracurricular activities.
  • Facilities: Assess the school’s facilities, including boarding options if required.
  • Admission Requirements: Familiarize yourself with any admission requirements for students.
  • Fees: Determine the annual fees, including information about available bursaries and scholarships.

Remember that not all international schools are the same, and different schools prioritize different aspects, such as academics or sports. Understanding the school’s culture and teaching style is essential to ensure the best fit for your child.

It’s important to note that international schools should still be monitored and regulated. Check for accreditations and inspection reports from reputable agencies, such as the British Schools Overseas Inspection (BSO), the Council of British International Schools (COBIS), the Council of International Schools (CIS), the International Schools Quality Mark (EDT (ISQM)), the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), or the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

Discover the Alice Smith International School

As the first British international school in Malaysia, the Alice Smith International School was founded by Alice Fairfield-Smith. With a Primary Campus in Kuala Lumpur and a Secondary Campus in nearby Selangor, the school offers a British-based curriculum tailored for ages 3 to 18. The Alice Smith International School provides students with abundant opportunities within an innovative, supportive, and connected community. For more details, visit our website or reach out to the school directly.

In conclusion, international schools offer a world of educational opportunities for families seeking a global learning experience. By embracing multiculturalism, providing recognized curricula, and nurturing students in a diverse environment, international schools create an enriching educational journey for children around the world.

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