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What's an International School?
An International school does not have a strict definition. Its meaning varies from one place to another and even from one person to another in the same place -- even inside "international" schools. Wikipedia has a page devoted to it, but it may not represent a common view of the topic, although it does cover many of the points usually mentioned.
In many countries the very term is restricted by law. First and foremost, an international school does not necessarily represent the curriculum or philosophy of its host country. Usually, however, the law stipulates that the curriculum must pay attention to particular issues, usually linguistic, especially for students native to the host country. In some countries, citizens of the country are barred from attending an international school; if they are not, their numbers may be limited by nationality-quotas thought necessary to maintain international schools distinctively "international" student-bodies. There are also likely to be laws regarding a school's ownership, its funding and the nationalities of its faculty members. In other words, the location of an international school has a lot to do with its definition.
Another important part of arriving at a definition is the origin of its founders. The country of origin and their particular needs often has a significant say in the shape of the curriculum, the campus and everything else about a school. For example, embassy staff from a particular country may wish to prepare their children for their ultimate return to their home country. Likewise, businessmen and women will expect their children to attend institutions of higher education back home. Proper preparation for further education is the most likely reason not to have one's chidren attend school in the host country. People of various religious or political backgrounds will have their viewpoints and shape schools in which they are involved accordingly. If their numbers are not sufficient for a viable school, however, they may join with others or just enroll their students in existing international schools.
Since World War II, many have remarked a new kind of international school emerging for apprently various and often overlapping reasons. This new school takes the term "international" to mean more than "outside" the host country's educational domain or that of a school's organizers, and to include at least passing reference to such terms as "globalism," "internationalism," and "multiculturalism." Whether starry-eyed or pragmatic in appearance, the new thinking is widespread and has infiltrated not only ideas, but also curricula around the world. The hope that through education we might help our children to become better-prepared to grapple with the enormous challenges of over-population, pollution, hunger and freedom of thought is a key component in the mission statements of most international schools. The fear that ignoring this opportunity might be more than a little irresponsible, and of being on the losing side, drives many to join or support them.
An international school, then, by virtue of its competing missions, embodies a world apart in education, possessing an intrinsic drive to go "beyond borders" which can become a drive for excellence, and which, therefore, acts as a measuring stick against which all other schools can grade themselves. No wonder in this time which we all feel to be one of great transition, that parents find themselves choosing schools such as international schools bent resolutely toward the horizon of the future.