Assessing and researching international schools

International Schools come in all shapes and sizes; use a variety of curricula; have a variety of facilities and resources; offer a variety of salary and benefits packages; and the overall quality covers the whole spectrum of outstanding to extremely poor.  This begs the question, ‘How does a person who is contemplating teaching abroad find the answer to the question of what is a good international school?’  The situation is even more difficult should the teacher be new to international school teaching.  There are several indicators available to assess the unknown quantity of individual international schools.


This is the best indicator.  If a school has achieved accreditation status by a reputable organisation, it is well worth considering.  The school will have had to go through a rigorous process, in which is rated against a range of standards that encompass all facets of school life.  The over-riding purposes are to assure standards and aim for continuous improvement.  The process includes a visit by a trained team of international teachers and leaders, which assesses the school in its response to the prescribed standards.

The major accrediting bodies are: Council of International Schools (CIS), North Eastern Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), Council of British International Schools (COBIS)

Membership of an organisation of international schools

The full membership of several organisations of international schools often is determined by strict criteria, which are usually accompanied by a school visit by a member of the organisation’s committee or senior member of the organisation.

Major organisations include: Council of International Schools (CIS), European Council of International Schools (ECIS), Headmasters’ and Headmistresses Conference – Overseas member (HMC), Latin American Heads’ Conference (LAHC), British Schools in the Middle East (BSME),Near East South Asia  Council of Overseas Schools (NESA),  Federation of British International Schools of South East Asia and East Asia (FOBISSEA), East Asia Regional Council of Overseas Schools (EARCOS),  Association of China and Mongolian International Schools (ACAMIS), Mediterranean Association of International Schools (MAIS), Japanese Council of International Schools (JCIS), Swiss Group of International Schools (SGIS), National Association of International Schools in Spain (NABSS), and Association of International Schools in Africa (AISA).

Schools managed by a parent company or an educational foundation

Some of the most prestigious international schools in the world are part of groups that are committed to providing excellent education.  Often these schools are well-funded and abundant in resources.  Many of them have built their reputations over a long period of time.  On the other hand, some are establishing newer schools (often in the Middle East, China and India) with the intention of meeting the highest standards.

Some noteworthy groups include: United World Colleges (Worldwide), English Schools Foundation (Hong Kong), GEMS (Middle East, China and India), Dulwich College – International Section (China), World Class Learning (North America), Educational Schools Overseas Limited (Middle East), and Yew Chung Educational Federation (China).

Individual schools with an international reputation built over several years

These are more difficult to assess from the outside.  Indicators are some of the above (e.g. accreditation and membership – some will have more than one in each category) and look for date of establishment, student roll and curriculum (e.g. do they offer the IB).

The names of the schools that fall into this category are too numerous to list, but some notable outstanding schools are the International School of Geneva, United Nations International School New York, Tanglin Trust School Singapore, Garden International School Kuala Lumpur, and Sha Tin College Hong Kong.

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Written by John Regan
former International School Head and CEO of Teacher Horizons
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