There are many different types of international school, but essentially an international school is one which follows an international curriculum, rather than that of the country it is in. This may mean the school follows the curriculum of a particular country, or that the school offers international qualifications such as the International Baccalaureate or Edexcel.
International schools are used by students who are not nationals of the country they are in. This might be because their parents are in the country for work with international businesses or even foreign embassies. In some instances local students may attend an international school in order to learn the language and culture of that particular national school or to gain qualifications for employment in that country.
International schools provide continuity of education for children whose parents are required to travel around the world for work.
In an increasingly globalised world, there is more and more demand for international schools, and so more international schools are being founded across the globe.
Aside from the curriculum, an international school can be different from a non-international school in other ways. For example, because of the nature of the environment, international schools often have a fluctuating or moving population, with lots of people coming and going over the course of a school year. It is also not uncommon to find that teachers in international schools come and go more frequently, and teachers may of course be from a variety of different countries, speaking a wide range of languages. You may also find that an international school - especially one that offers international qualifications - may have students from a wide range of nationalities, speaking many different languages.
In most international schools the main language of instruction is English, though some do favour French. Most international schools will require that students learn at least one additional language.
Many international schools will follow the curriculum of a particular country - but others follow an international curriculum with internationally recognised qualifications such the International Baccalaureate, Edexcel or Cambridge International Examinations.
When parents are in work that requires them to move around the globe regularly, an international qualification allows their children to move with them from country to country without it affecting their ongoing studies. They can still attend school and study for the same qualification, whichever country they are in. An international qualification can also be used by a student to gain work in many different countries without the confusion of potential employers needing to know about foreign equivalents to their own qualifications and grading systems.
International curricula focus on internationalism, developing students to become citizens of the world rather than of a particular country.
International schools’ curricula is fairly similar to other schools in terms of the subjects taught. These can include maths, sciences, humanities, languages, physical education and information technology. The difference is that they will focus on the curriculum of a particular country, rather than the host country - or they will have an international focus if the school provides international qualifications.
The UK has many international schools catering to a wide range of curricula. Take a look at our International Schools section for more details.
You can choose to send your child to an international school that focuses on the curriculum of your home country, or you can opt for one that favours an international qualification instead.