What is an International School?
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.” (Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare)
Shakespeare reminds us how a name by itself can mean nothing. This means it achieves meaning from what’s behind the name. Therefore, does having the word international in a school’s name make it international? What is an international school, and what, exactly, makes it international?
I am currently teaching in Thailand since 2012 as an ELL Science teacher for a Thai Private Government Bilingual school for grades 6 – 7. Throughout my experience here in Thailand, international schools come in many different shapes and sizes and the term in itself evokes a specific reaction amongst the population in Thailand. A majority of schools in Thailand are Government schools for primary and secondary students. The next largest which are highly sort after by Thai parents are the private government schools. These schools have the labels such as “international school” or “bilingual international school” etc. At first, I felt an international school was international based on the diversity and demographic of the students along with the diverse educators who teach at the school. I believed a school be to international due to the majority of the students which would have to be from a foreign background over their host nations. For example, 60% of the school student demographic is from Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan, England USA etc. while 40% of the student demographic are from Thailand.
However, Hill (1994) would argue how these private schools are merely just national schools using the label of international. Hill (1994) defines national schools as “one whose students and staff are predominantly from one country, where the curriculum and examinations of that country only are offered”. My current school may gain certain appeal and reputation with the labelling of it being a “bilingual international school”, with the staff being diverse and from different cultures including teachers from its host country Thailand. However, a majority of the students are Thai and the only examinations offered are the national requirements from the Ministry of Education Thailand.
Hill (1994) maintains how an international school is distinctly different from a national school. An international school “are those whose students and staff are representative of a number of cultural and ethnic origins, where the IB [International Baccalaureate] and/or a number of different national courses and examinations are offered and where the ethos is one of internationalism” (Hill, 1994). International Schools Consultancy (ISC) confirms this and states their definition of an international school by declaring they are “English-medium schools that deliver their curriculum wholly or partly in English outside an English-speaking country” (Hill, 2015).
Foundation and history of international schools designed for expatriate students of all backgrounds.
Hayden and Thompson (1995) list factors such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) program which is recognised by both them and Hill’s (2015) articles for its pioneering in the international curriculum area. I believe international schools and international education is a relatively recent one in formal terms with a rapid growth and globalization in the past 50 years, “‘global citizenship – education for international understanding- world-mindedness’ came from a growing concern evident in the years since the WWII with the development of international cooperation as a means of avoiding further large-scale” ( J., Hayden, & Thompson, 1995). Therefore, during this time, the demand and growth in international schools around the globe was seen in 1964;
“only politicians, diplomats, missionaries and volunteers with social welfare organisations really lived overseas for any period of time, and proposing in one of its final chapters ‘the existence of a new concept–international schools founded with the specific purpose of furthering international education’ (Bereday & Lauwerys, quoted in Jonietz & Harris, 1991, p. ix).
Kurt Hahn (1936), was a key figure in the development of international education, “it is our duty to equip this growing generation, irrespective of class, with willing bodies”. Fast forward to the present, and now many international schools currently provide education for expatriate students of all backgrounds living abroad. Thailand begins in 1951 with the International School Bangkok (ISB). Six years later, in 1957, Raum Rudee International School (RIS) and Bangkok Pattana School (BPS) were established, “These three prestigious schools (The Big Three) held an exclusive monopoly on international education for the next thirty-five years’ (Wanchupela, 2007). As of 2015, according to Gaskell (2015) at ISC, there are now 176 international schools in Thailand.
Bangkok currently dominates the international schools market in Thailand with 106 schools. Most of Thailand’s major cities have one or two international school options, whereas Phuket has 12. “The English-medium international schools market in Thailand looks set to grow in conjunction with the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community” (Gaskell, 2015). There is a large demand from expatriates living in Thailand, with many local wealthy parties whom of which are largely dissatisfied with Thailand’s national education system.
Gaskel (2015) the Director for International Schools at ISC Research further states;
“Almost 50% of Thailand’s international schools follow (all or in part) the National Curriculum of England and 30% deliver a US style curriculum. 14% deliver one or more of the International Baccalaureate programmes (the IB Primary Years Programme, the IB Middle Years Programme, and the IB Diploma Programme)”.
Along with the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community, Gaskell (2015) expects there to be a growth in Thailand’s international schools alongside other countries within Southeast Asia.
I imagine cities or more urban places such as Bangkok, Phuket or similar have been and will continue to grow and develop at a faster pace in comparison to other rural areas in Thailand (or other similar countries across the world). This is because these cities have become internationalised through tourism and working expatriates where the demand is high to support their children whom of which are expatriate students. Calderon (2016), interviews Lauren Carey, a franchise-development manager for real-estate firm Coldwell Banker.
She says how “in Bangkok, the cost of living is lower and the quality of life is much higher than in Boston, her previous home”. Calderon (2016) further claims how Thailand “is more affordable and it is easy for expats to set up and find accommodation”.
Why is Alliance for International Education (AIE) important for international educators?
As a result of globalization, there will be a growth of international schools around the world. Organisations such as the AIE are developed to “brings together those who are committed to advancing international education and intercultural understanding to develop ideas and practices through sharing and exploring their similarities and differences” (AIE, 2017). They embody and personify globalization and promote the skills necessary for students to become global competent learners within the 21st Century. The AIE was created as an organisation for international schools to communicate globally, to collaborate and share ideas with each other along with the aim of improving international education. Including multiple objectives to benefit the global students of tomorrow.
With the increasing amount of schools becoming more globally aware, the international school community will continue to grow and improve.
“The Alliance for International Education thus exists primarily to assist you in carrying out your own projects and activities as successfully as possible through increased knowledge and understanding arising from participation with others pursuing common goals. The more diverse your interests, the more likely are the prospects that others can benefit from learning about them. Consequently, those who ultimately benefit will be those who matter most – the young people who will forge the societies of the future” (AIE,2017).
Calderon, J. (2016, April 27th). Bangkok shouldn’t be good for expats – but it is. Retrieved June 21st, 2017, from bbc.com: http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20160426-bangkok-shouldnt-be-good-for-expats-but-it-is
Gaskell, R. (2015, October 25th). International schools market in Thailand predicted to strengthen. Retrieved June 21st, 2017, from linkedin.com: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/international-schools-market-thailand-predicted-richard-gaskell
Hahn, K. (1936). Education and Peace: The Foundations of Modern Society. The Inverness Courier.
Hahn, K. (2017, June 20). There is more than you think. Retrieved June 21st, 2017, from: http://www.kurthahn.org/
Hayden, M. C., & Thompson , J. J. (1995). INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS AND INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION: A RELATIONSHIP REVIEWED. Oxford Review of Education, Volume 21.
ISC. (2017, June 20). About ISC. Retrieved June 21st, 2017, from ISC research: https://www.iscresearch.com/
Hill, I. (2015). What is an ‘international schools’?. International Schools Journal, Vol XXXV No.1.
Nick Brummitt, ISC Group. (2014, February 21st). Retrieved from The PIE News: https://thepienews.com/pie-chat/nick-brummitt-isc-group-uk/
Wanchupela, R. M. (2007). A History of International Schools in Thailand. Retrieved June 21st, 2017, from amchamthailand.com: https://www.amchamthailand.com/asp/view_doc.asp?DocCID=1513
AIE. (2017, June 21st). Welcome to the Alliance for International Education. Retrieved June 21st, 2017, from Alliance for International Education: http://www.intedalliance.org/about-aie/welcome-to-the-alliance-for-inte/