An international school is a school that promotes international education, in an international environment, either by adopting a curriculum such as that of the International Baccalaureate, Edexcel or Cambridge International Examinations, or by following a national curriculum different from that of the school's country of residence.
These schools cater mainly to students who are not nationals of the host country, such as the children of the staff of international businesses, international organizations, foreign embassies, missions, or missionary programs. Many local students attend these schools to learn the language of the international school and to obtain qualifications for employment or higher education in a foreign country.
The first international schools were founded in the latter half of the 19th century in countries such as Japan, Switzerland and Turkey. Early international schools were set up for families who traveled, like children of personnel of international companies, international organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGO), and embassy staff. The schools were established with the people and organizations having large interests in the hosting nation: for instance, American diplomats and missionaries often set up schools to educate their children; children of American military and army families often attended Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS); French diplomats and business families founded similar schools based on the French curriculum.