An American international school is a school which teaches the American curriculum or has an American orientation, outside of the United States.
Who uses an American international school?
There are around 1700 American international schools around the world, and some of these are sponsored by the US State Department.
Around a quarter of pupils in American international schools are American; another quarter are from the host country where the school is based. The remaining fifty per cent of pupils are from a third country.
American international schools are used by families living outside of the USA who want their children to receive an education based on the American curriculum and culture. Unlike the UK, which has the National Curriculum, there is no central American curriculum. Recently though, many states in the US have adopted the Common Core, which is a directive attempting to standardise English and maths across the US. That said, the US education system does have a common theme of enquiry-based learning as well as pupil-centred planning. Many American international schools align to the Common Core standards.
American international schools may be used by families living abroad due to work, for example in the armed forces or working in foreign embassies. Attending an American international school means the children will be able to carry on with their education either at another American international school when the family moves to a different country, or in the school system when the family returns to America.
Many parents will also opt for an American international school if they want their child to attend college in America as this is a good way of familiarising them with the system and preparing them for life in the US.
Why choose an American international school?
Most American parents working overseas will return to the US at some point and will usually want their children to enter or re-enter the American school system when they do. An American international school is a good way of facilitating this, especially if living in a country where English is not the main spoken language. An American international school will also teach pupils about American values and culture which is useful for those children who perhaps have not spent much time in the United States but do consider themselves to be American.
American parents working abroad will often choose an American international school rather than send their child to a boarding school in the US, as it allows them to maintain close contact and normal family life.
Features of an American international school
An education in an American international school is characterised by a broad and balanced curriculum with standardised tests which are benchmarked by all American international schools across the globe. This can lead to the SATs which are a standard test in the US education system.
The US curriculum is the third most widely-used in international schools, after the British National Curriculum and the International Baccalaureate.
Unlike the British National Curriculum, a key feature of the American education system is a wide base of knowledge, where pupils are encouraged to continue with as many subjects as possible for as long as possible.
In American schools pupils are often assessed by their teacher and given an overall grade for the year, ranging from A to F. Students who fail their year may be required to repeat the whole year.
How are American international schools regulated?
The US does not have Ofsted inspections like the UK, but there are still regulations to be followed. American international schools are usually accredited by a regional body such as the New York State Board of Regents, and they will follow the curriculum of that particular state.