Building for the Future

Education is the best instrument to build a better world. Living in peace is achieved by working together and celebrating our cultural diversity and similarity.




The International Schools Association was founded under Swiss Law in 1951 and as such is the most senior organization in the world of international education. It is an international non-governmental organization and the first educational NGO to be granted consultative status at UNESCO.

Since 1951, ISA has been dedicated to consulting and providing educators with the necessary guidance that is needed to help schools define their understanding of the term “international” in education.




The International Schools Association works to promote international and intercultural understanding. In so doing the Association espouses a number of values – peace, freedom, equality, tolerance and the celebration of both diversity and similarity – which express for the Association the essential meaning and purpose of multiculturalism and international mindedness.

The Association believes that young people should face the challenges arising from the acceptance of these values and is supportive of all organizations which share its conviction about internationalism, international mindedness and international education in all its forms and wherever it may be found.




  • To further world peace and international understanding through education.
  • To encourage the creation of new international schools.
  • To encourage co-operation among international or internationally-minded schools through consultation on teaching and administrative questions.
  • To facilitate or undertake the study of educational problems of interest to such schools.
  • To nurture interest in national schools of international matters as a means of improving international understanding.
  • To publicize the aims and principles of international schools and promote international understanding among national schools.






There is a lack of consensus as to the identity of the first international school. Some would suggest that this honour should go to The International College (also known as Spring Grove School) in Hounslow, London, which was formally opened by the future King Edward VII in July 1867.

The school, whose official name was: London College of the International Education Society, was the brainchild of the politician Richard Cobden, the scientist Thomas Huxley and the novelist Charles Dickens, among others. It had its origins in an essay competition associated with the London International Exhibition of 1862 entitled “The advantages of educating together children of different nationalities”. Cobden was a leading advocate of free trade and he regarded the new school, with its international mix of students, as a nursery for ‘ambassadors’ who would improve international understanding and thereby encourage the efficient flow of world trade.






  • 1951 Bertram Pickard Chairman of the Governing Board of the International School of Geneva (ISA Constitutive Meeting).
  • 1951-1952 Fred Roquette Director of the International School of Geneva.
  • 1952-1970 Russel Cook Member of the Governing Board of the International School of Geneva.
  • 1970-1971 Gerald Atkinson Headmaster of the Inter-Community School, Zurich.
  • 1971-1984 Paul Scheid Director of the Anna-Schmidt-Schule Frankfurt-am-Main.
  • 1984-1988 Robert Belle-Isle Director of the United Nations International School, New York.
  • 1988-1992 Bernard Ivaldi Director General of the Foundation of the International School of Geneva.
  • 1992-1999 James Mc Lellan Director of Vienna International School.
  • 1999-2001 Bert Timmermans Rijnlands Lyceum, Netherlands.
  • 2002-2003 Mabel Mary Manzitti Headmaster of the St. Catherine´s Moorlands School, Argentina.
  • 2003-2005 Clive Carthew Director of Professional Development at Silsoe College, UK.
  • 2005-2019 Luis Martinez Zorzo President at SEK University, Chile.
  • 2019 - until today John Lees Director Istanbul International School, Turkey.



In the 1960’s ISA was instrumental in the development of the International Baccalaureate Organization.

In the 1980’s ISA created an international program for middle schools (11 to 16 year old students), which with further development by the IBO became the IBMYP (International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program).

The establishment of a curriculum framework for Peace Education and Sustainable Development, designed as an instrument for schools to become more internationally minded.

The publication of “Internationalism in Schools – a Self-Study Guide” a document designed to help schools understand the extent to which they are international or internationally-minded.

Every year the ISA sponsors a “Youth Encounter” for students from member and non-member schools. Its purpose is to promote leadership within global and cultural themes. Further details: edgardo.manzitti@isaschools.org

Every two years a World Conference is organized around a theme dealing with International Education – its characteristics, development and promotion.

The ISA sponsors Oral English Examinations. These cover the Elementary, Primary, Intermediate and Secondary Stages. It combines oral communication skills, comprehension, and oral reading in English as a foreign language. Further details: edgardo.manzitti@isaschools.org

The annual nomination of both the ISA International Humanism Award and the ISA Distinguished Service Award

A current project is the development of an accreditation system based on self-study. Schools who complete successfully the self-study process will be certificated by the International Schools Association.

logo ISA

Education is the best instrument to build a better world. Living in peace is achieved by working together and celebrating our cultural diversity and similarity.