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 needed to help schools define their understanding of the term “international” in education.


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.


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.