Curricula & Examinations

An international education requires a high quality international curriculum

Schools around the world are structured fairly similarly – while some education systems include all-through schools (teaching from 4/5 to 18), many will have primary and secondary phases with the break between the two coming around age 11. Globally, many refer to that full period of education using the American term ‘K12’ meaning from Kindergarten to Grade 12.

School Phases by Age

The first international schools, set-up around 150 years ago, were established to educate the children of diplomats and employees of multinational corporations. Therefore, it stands to reason that a British family posted to South East Asia or an American family in the Middle East would want their children to be taught a British-oriented or American-based education, respectively. Thus, we have seen the rise of international schools worldwide. As these transient families moved from country to country there grew a demand for standardised education across those international schools, so school groups and regional affiliations have developed. Additionally, we’ve seen the curricula taught in these schools evolve. Today, it’s not just national curricula on offer as the likes of the International Baccalaureate offer a wholly repackaged learning path, though still reasonably western-oriented.

As national curricula are changed in the originating country, the version taught in international schools may not, so always be aware of differences in content. For example, the National Curriculum in England will be completely overhauled in September 2014, but the English NC followed by international schools will not follow suit.

With teaching comes assessment

At the end of any phase of education come the obligatory examinations. International education is a business so, in addition to the national curricula and standard assessment tests we may be familiar with, there are private organisations that create the examinations to assess performance in international curricula. The most well-known include the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) and Cambridge International Examinations (CIE). You can find more information on the study of which curricula leads to which examinations in our data pages.