Curricula used in international schools

Curriculum choice is important to families thinking about their children’s future, as schools are a stepping stone to university. Local students in international schools often choose to travel overseas to go to university once they finish school. The choice of curriculum often depends on the specific goals and policies of the school, as well as the nationality and educational background of the student body. Some schools may also offer a combination of curricula or offer different curricula for different subjects or age groups.

Most international schools follow a curriculum that provides students with a pathway to global higher education, with qualifications that are globally recognised at ages 16 and 18.


Most popular international curricula

What curriculum is used in international schools?| Search Associates ANZ | primary school students all working in a collaborative environment There are now 13,180 English-Medium international schools around the world enrolling 5.8 million students.

UK A Levels remain the most popular exit qualifications in international schools. 32% of international schools offer A levels, while 27% offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma, and 15% offer Advanced Placement.

Today a growing number of international schools combine various strands of international and national curricula such as some programmes from Cambridge International or the International Baccalaureate, some elements or programmes from the UK or US (and increasingly from countries such as Canada, Australia or India), plus some elements from the national curriculum of the host nation (often to comply with government regulations). Sam Fraser from International Teacher Magazine

  • The International Baccalaureate

In Australia and New Zealand, we don’t tend to be all that familiar with that model because it’s not widely used. It’s becoming more prevalent in our schools but at this point in time, many people still haven’t worked at an IB school. Our inquiry-based pedagogy fits in nicely with the IB and runs for what would be the final two years of school in Australia years 11 and 12. In New Zealand, it would be years 12 and 13. Graduates have an accredited credential that allows them to go to international universities all over the world. For students in international schools that’s the number one priority.

  • American Education

The American Advanced Placement (AP) programme offers standardised courses to high school students that are generally recognised to be equivalent to undergraduate courses in college. Participating universities worldwide grant credit to students who obtained high enough scores on the exams to qualify. The AP curriculum applies to a wide array of subjects, and each subject’s curriculum is determined by a panel of experts and college educators in that particular academic field.

  • British Education

The National Curriculum in the UK defines the minimum educational requirements for students of compulsory school age (5-16 years). Developed by the University of Cambridge International Examinations, the IGCSE is an international alternative to national educational curriculums, and its qualifications are based on individual subjects of study. This entails that an “IGCSE” qualification is awarded to a student depending on the number of subjects they take.

  • International Curricula

The curriculum encompasses a number of different backgrounds – the school might take the numeracy project out of New Zealand and they might take the first steps reading program out of Western Australia. The school adapts and makes its own curricula.

A small percentage of schools follow the Australian curriculum and calendar. Other countries also have schools following the German or Swiss curriculum.

“When it comes to curriculum selection, our field research suggests a prevailing desire among international schools for flexible curricula. Such flexibility allows schools to tailor content to the needs of their location, student community, and overarching vision and ethos.” Extract from ISC Research Report: Global Market Overview p74

Do you need experience to be able to teach a curriculum?

What curriculum is used in international schools? |Search Associates ANZ |teacher about to write with white chalk on blackbaordWe’ve worked in schools using an American curriculum, an international curriculum, and a British national curriculum. In all of those schools 2 + 2 = 4. If you’re a good teacher in your domestic environment you’ll be a good teacher in an international environment, provided that you learn how to fill in the new proformas.  Don’t be too concerned about using different curricula.

Some schools have a preference for teachers who have had previous experience in some curricula. The way to overcome that (especially with the IB) is to really focus on the fact that you’ve had inquiry pedagogy experience and that’s innate in a lot of what you do. A lot of the best teachers that we have or we had when we were working with the International Baccalaureate program were teachers who had never taught it before, but they understood inquiry and it became something that they did with their kids all the time.

Most reputable schools will send you on an IB workshop even before you start employment, or in your first year.

Are you curriculum bilingual?

When you went to school you studied using the state or national curricula of your country, and you probably qualified in teaching with the same. If you have now had experience teaching other curricula make sure to use that to ‘market’ yourself.

There are advantages and disadvantages to all curricula. Each do things slightly differently. They may have a slightly different language and a slightly different philosophy. People who have taught different curriculums tend to offer different methodologies and draw on them when planning in their new schools.  If you are an aspiring curriculum leader you’ll have more resonance if you can show other ways of thinking about curriculum conundrums or teaching-learning issues.

The following information on over 700 schools, can be found on our database.

  • What curriculum is used in international schools?| Search Associates ANZ| female teacher happily in contemplation A levels 
  • Australian National Curriculum 
  • Bilingual curriculum 
  • Canadian curriculum (any province) 
  • Chinese national curriculum 
  • GCSE 
  • IB CP 
  • IB Diploma 
  • IB MYP 
  • IB PYP 
  • IGCSE 
  • IMYC 
  • Inquiry-Based Learning 
  • IPC 
  • Montessori 
  • National Curriculum of Ireland 
  • New Zealand National Curriculum 
  • Reggio Emilia 
  • Scottish Highers 
  • UK Early Years 
  • UK Primary 
  • UK Secondary 
  • US Advanced Placement 
  • US Common Core 
  • Victorian certificate of education 
  • WIDA 
  • Local opportunities for Non-Teaching spouses 

Registered teachers with Search Associates can search by schools using any of these curricula, depending on their interests.

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