The school-age children of overseas Americans–estimated to number nearly a quarter million–attend a wide variety of schools. Most of the children of military personnel attend schools established and operated by the U.S. Department of Defense. Children of U.S. civilians in government and the private sector most often attend non-government, coeducational, independent schools of various kinds. Although these schools include those founded by U.S. companies, church organizations, and individual proprietors; the majority are nonprofit, non-denominational, independent schools. Many of the schools receive assistance and support from the U.S. Government under a program administered by the Office of Overseas Schools, U.S. Department of State. The purposes of the assistance program are to help the schools provide quality education for children of U.S. citizens and to demonstrate to foreign nationals the philosophy and methods of American education. The schools are open to nationals of all countries. As such, these schools are critical to our foreign policy objective of strengthening mutual understanding between Americans and the people of other countries.
Basic Characteristics: No statement about the American-sponsored overseas schools would apply without exception or qualification. Variety is one of their basic characteristics. They range from small schools, such as the American International School of Algiers in Algiers, Algeria, with 28 students, to large overseas schools, such as the Singapore American School with 4,006 students. School facilities range from rented homes to multi-million dollar campuses, although increasing numbers of overseas schools now occupy purpose-built facilities.
The U.S. Government does not operate or control the schools. Ownership of the schools is typically in the hands of a parents’ association. Parents elect a school board for a specific term to govern the school and hire the chief administrator. All schools are subject, in varying degrees, to host-country laws and regulations pertaining to educational practices, importation of educational materials, and personnel practices.
Tuition payments are the principal source of financing for the schools. Many schools derive additional support from gifts and contributions from U.S. and local business firms, foundations, individuals, and local governments; and all receive some assistance from the limited funds available under the program of the Office of Overseas Schools.
The schools’ instructional programs provide a core curriculum that prepares students to enter schools, colleges, and universities in the United States. The language of instruction is English, supplemented in most schools with the local language. The content of the educational programs is American, but can vary. Certain schools, especially in Latin America, must also fulfill host-country curriculum requirements.
The schools’ curricula tend to be largely academic, with relatively little attention given to vocational or commercial education. An outstanding characteristic of most American-sponsored overseas schools is the use they make of their locations abroad to provide foreign language and local culture programs. The quality and range of instructional materials are excellent in an increasing number of the schools. Indeed, the quality of computer programs in many of these schools exceeds that of comparable schools in the United States.
Many of the administrators and the teachers in these schools are Americans or educated in U.S. colleges and universities. A portion of the American staff is hired locally, and a number of these are U.S. Government dependent spouses. All teachers are college graduates, and the majority holds teaching certificates. The local and third-country teachers are well qualified. Hiring of staff is the responsibility of the individual schools.
SAT Results in American-Sponsored Overseas Schools Assisted by the U.S. Department of State: SAT scores for students in schools assisted by the Office of Overseas Schools are, on average, higher than both the national average and the averages for DC area schools. Below is a SAT score comparison of Department of State Assisted Schools, the U.S. National Average, and the state averages for Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC:
Individual Fact Sheets for assisted schools can be found under Assisted Schools. Contact information for current assisted schools can be found in the 2021-2022 Assisted School Directory (pdf). For further information please do not hesitate to reach out to the appropriate Regional Education Officer (REO) or the Office of Overseas Schools (OverseasSchools@state.gov)
This Fact Sheet is intended to provide general information. Prospective users of the schools may wish to inquire further of A/OPR/OS or contact the school directly for more specific and up-to-the-minute information regarding curriculum, special programs, and the like. Statistics provided by the schools.