Glossary Of International Education Terminology

Our glossary of international education terms can help you get more familiar with the content you will come across in your research.
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Those that are new to the world of international schools may find the research process of choosing a good international school for their child to be a daunting task. This notion is especially true when you come across numerous pages of content littered with international education terminology or acronyms that are unfamiliar to you.

To help you get familiar with this terminology, you can browse our helpful glossary of international education terms below with some more specific to international schools that provide a holistic education, such as ISKL; this glossary will help you learn, research, and browse international schools’ content confidently and help you ask the right questions when selecting a suitable school to be the foundation for your child’s future.

Are you looking for a good international school for your child? Here are some reasons why ISKL could be the right choice.

Glossary of International Education Terminology


An accredited status or credit grants a school its international recognition. An accreditation status testifies the school’s commitment to providing high-quality international education to its community and the world.


Student agency is an initiative designed to empower students to experience more choice in how they learn, which, in turn, supports the development of “future-ready” skills. Agency also allows students to voice their thoughts and opinions in regards to their own learning. 

The initiative empowers students to develop and practice essential life skills such as taking initiative, calculated risk-taking, and belief in oneself in a supportive environment. 

Students learn and practice the skills of self-directedness, resilience, and collaboration. They are given opportunities to demonstrate these skills within the curricular subjects and agency-specific designated time outside the curriculum.

Curriculum and curriculum design: 

When an international school uses the term curriculum, they cite the course material, such as the lessons and academic content taught by the teacher in that school or a specific course/program.

Curriculum design describes the planning process during which teachers or the academic team organize the units that will be taught in their course. This process involves planning activities, readings, lessons, and assessments to help the students achieve their educational goals.

Early Childhood Education: 

Sometimes referred to as Early Years, this is the period in a child’s life from birth to age five to six years old. It covers a time of remarkable growth where the child is experiencing significant brain development. During these years, children are acutely influenced by their environment, including people.

According to UNESCO, early childhood care and education (ECCE) is more than preparation for primary school. It aims at the holistic development of a child’s social, emotional, cognitive, and physical needs to build a solid and broad foundation for lifelong learning and wellbeing.

Children have opportunities for teacher-directed and child-directed activities. Recognizing that children grow socially, emotionally, intellectually, and physically at different rates allows schools to use differentiated instructions to ensure optimal success for each child.

Content is integrated into thematic units and student-initiated interest areas and is taught through learning experiences and activities within the learning environments. 

Elementary School:

Elementary school builds on the skills and learning outcomes of the Early Childhood program through a standards-based curriculum that specifies what students should know and be able to do. This education period at ISKL includes students of 6 to 11 years of age and covers grades 1 to 5.

At international schools like ISKL, Elementary School encourages experiential learning and develops skills, interests, and early learning habits through research-based programs and key elements in stimulating learning environments like ISKL’s leading-edge Makerspace and Collaboration Spaces.

English as an Additional Language (EAL): 

Sometimes referred to as English as a Second Language (ESL)  international education term refers to students who are competent in a language other than English and do not consider English their native language.

These students will study English as an additional language to help them get accustomed to the language in an English-speaking international school environment. EAL aims to support these students by developing their speaking, reading, writing, and listening skills in English.

Extracurricular/Co-curricular/After School Activities: 

These international education terms are used to describe school-authorized activities — like a sport or a club — that students can participate in, in addition to their regular school classes.

Future-ready education: 

International schools use this term to describe how they deliver quality education that prepares students for their future by supporting them in developing 21st-century skills today.

To exercise future-ready education, schools utilize programs designed to help students become self-directed learners and align with programs, like the International Baccalaureate (IBDP), to teach students how to take action to affect change now and in the future. 


International schools utilize this education term to demonstrate how they serve all their students’ academic, social, emotional, and developmental needs.

Integrating inclusion into a school’s programming ensures equal access and opportunity for all students to find their passion and succeed. Schools provide a range of services and organize teams, such as EAL teachers, learning support teachers, psychologist, a speech language pathologist, and counselors, to support every learner’s many individual, academic, and well-being needs. 

International Baccalaureate (IBDP): 

The IBDP is an academically challenging program for students aged 16 to 19  with the objective of setting them up for success at university. 

The courses of this program are divided into six main categories: languages, social studies, experimental sciences, mathematics, and visual or performing arts. Students can choose to take these programs at a Higher Level (HL) or Standard Level (SL). 

An IB certificate can be earned by taking one IB course and the externally-assessed exam. You can earn an IB diploma by completing the courses mentioned above, writing a 4,000 word extended essay, completing 50 hours of creative, action, and service (CAS) activities, and the mandatory Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course requirement.

International school: 

A term used to describe a school that delivers an international education to students within a global environment. The school also utilizes an international curriculum such as the IBDP or the English National curriculum.

Are you considering an international school education for your child? Learn more about the benefits an international education can have on your child’s development here.

High School:

This educational term describes the period in school that covers grades 9 to 12 and includes students of ages 14 to 18 years. High school is sometimes referred to as secondary education.

Upon entering high school, students can choose from various learning options and programs depending on the path they want to take leading up to university education, like the IBDP programme.

High school is a pivotal period in a young adult’s life as their performance will set the course of their long-term career and future.

High School Pathways:

At ISKL, Pathways are the multitude of courses, programs, and learning options, such as IBDP or Pursuits program, provided by international schools, which grant students the opportunity to earn the type of academic credits they want to satisfy their individual graduation goals and requirements. 

These pathways have been designed to enable every learner to choose a curriculum best suited to their abilities, interests, and aspirations. Through these pathways, a student’s learning is enhanced and enduring because they are engaged in authentic, relevant, and meaningful activities.

Life-centered Education (LCE): 

This term describes an international school’s education system or a program that provides additional services such as life skills courses, social skills instruction, and modified academics.

At ISKL, the LCE is designed to meet the needs of students who have significant intellectual, learning, or developmental differences. Students accepted into the program receive personalized academic programming with embedded social-emotional learning from highly-trained special educators.

Life-long learners:

Lifelong learning is a type of self-initiated learning intended for personal development. This type of learning often occurs outside of a formal educational institute, such as a school.

It is the ongoing and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge that may be aimed at personal or professional goals. A lifelong learner is someone who maintains a growth mindset fueled by an innate curiosity about the world.

Middle School

Middle school provides a critical bridge between the Elementary years and High School and offers students the academic, physical, and social challenges needed to explore and develop their interests. This education period usually includes kids of 11 to 14 years old and covers grades 6 to 8.

Middle school is when schools encourage students to take the initiative, become independent learners, find balance, and develop the academic and interpersonal skills needed to grow and reach their full potential as adolescent learners.

Students are supported by educators who understand that this vital life stage is characterized by rapid growth and change.   

Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS): 

Also known as the MTSS framework, the MTSS process, or the MTSS model, stands for a multi-tiered system of support utilized by many international schools to provide targeted guidance to students that face challenges.

MTSS is a dynamic and holistic system designed to provide all students with equal access to high-quality instruction and interventions so that schools can prepare, monitor, and improve their capabilities of supporting students academically, behaviorally, socially, and emotionally.

An international school with a holistic education approach can prove to be suitable for your child. 

Not-for-profit vs for-profit: 

A not-for-profit international school reinvests the revenue it generates back into the school, enabling the school to provide its students with the best international educators and learning environment possible. 

Not-for-profit schools put their students at the center of their decision-making and provide their students with a wide variety of opportunities to enable every learner to discover their full potential.

For-profit schools are usually privately owned and managed. Investors and stakeholders run these schools intending to generate revenue for non-educational reasons. Also, for-profit schools typically don’t receive state or federal aid.


This international education term describes a method of child-centered education. Teachers use this learning method in the classroom to “provoke” independence and motivate investigative thoughts in their learners’ minds.

For example, at ISKL teachers use provocations to encourage students to have their individual experiences of the world by using open-ended activities that do not require excess guidance from parents or teachers.


The Pursuits Program is a two-year course for Grade 11 and 12 students at ISKL who want to gain recognition for a targeted area of study. It benefits those who would like to sample a career-related field of study.

It offers students the opportunity to combine individual IB, Advanced Placement, and High School Diploma courses to create their own program of study and take a deep dive into areas of distinction. Students can apply their learning in an authentic environment outside the classroom setting.

In this program, students are encouraged to pursue their dreams, find themselves, and explore opportunities and pathways that focus more or emphasize their interests and strengths. Students have the opportunity to personalize their own learning experiences and to pursue their career aspirations.

School culture: 

Broadly put, a school’s culture encompasses beliefs, values, perceptions, interactions, relationships, attitudes, and rules (both written and understood) which together mold and influence its functions.

An international school’s culture will also shine a light on matters having to do with a student’s physical and emotional safety, the structure of its classrooms and other parts of the school, and how the school embraces and celebrates racial, ethnic, linguistic, or cultural diversity.

School-Wide Learning Results (SLRs):

SLRs are based on six learning outcomes and enable students to tackle the future with confidence. At ISKL, our SLRs are Think Creatively, Reason Critically, Collaborate Constructively, Communicate Effectively, Live Ethically, Learn Enthusiastically.

SLRs can be embedded within an international school’s curriculum and culture. They act as a crucial component in ensuring students are future-ready. 

Self-directed learning:

Self-directed learning is a learning strategy where students must be ready to learn independently, take the initiative of their learning processes, set their own learning goals, engage in that learning process, and evaluate their learning.

A self-directed learner will need to find the appropriate resources and strategies to successfully learn and evaluate whether they have accomplished their learning goals in the process.

Student services: 

Student Services at an international school constitute various teams established to provide tiered support depending on the individual needs of all the students in that school. 

These teams consist of people who are all integral to supporting every learner’s academic and well-being needs. Examples of such student services teams include the school’s counselors, EAL teachers, or a Life-Centered Education program that helps students with significant intellectual, learning, or developmental differences.

International schools can be a great option for families seeking an alternative education for their children. To help you choose the right international school for your family, we’ve developed a helpful checklist “Key questions every parent should ask a prospective international school.” 

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Communication Updates

Latest update: October 26

  • Early Childhood, Life-Centered Education (LCE), Grade 10, 11 and 12
    On Campus Learning from October 25

  • Grade 1, 2, 3 and 9
    On Campus Learning from November 1

  • Grade 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8
    On Campus Learning from November 8
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