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U.S. Department of State

Overseas Schools Advisory Council
Worldwide Fact Sheet - 2000-2001



American-Sponsored Elementary and Secondary Schools Overseas

The Worldwide Context: The school-age children among 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, and a number of civilian government agency and private-sector children also attend these schools on a space-available, tuition-paying basis. However, most civilian agency dependents abroad attend nongovernment, 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, nondenominational, independent schools established on a cooperative basis by American citizens residing in foreign communities. Many of the schools in this latter group have received assistance and support from the U.S. government under a program administered by the Office of Overseas Schools of the U.S. Department of State. The schools that have received such assistance constitute the "American-sponsored" schools described in this Fact Sheet.

Statistics on the American-Sponsored Schools Assisted by the Department of State at a Glance: During the 2000-2001 school year, the Office of Overseas Schools is assisting 181 schools in 129 countries. The purposes of the assistance program are to help the schools provide adequate education for U.S. government dependents and to demonstrate to foreign nationals the philosophy and methods of American education. The schools are open to nationals of all countries, and their teaching staffs are multinational. Enrollment in the schools at the beginning of the 2000-2001 school year totaled 94,362, of whom 27,769 were U.S. citizens. In addition, there were 66,593 children from 129 other countries. Out of 11,087 teachers and administrators employed in the schools, 5,223 were U.S. citizens and 5,864 were foreign nationals from over 75 countries.

Summary Statistics

Basic Characteristics: No statement about the American-sponsored overseas schools would apply without exception or qualification to all schools. Variety is one of their basic characteristics. They range from tiny schools, such as the American Embassy School in Reykjavik, Iceland, with 13 students, to large overseas schools, such as the Singapore American School with 2,688 students. School facilities range from rented homes to multi-million dollar campuses, although in-creasing numbers of overseas schools now occupy purpose-built facilities. Very few schools have boarding facilities.

The schools are not operated or controlled by the U.S. government. Ownership and policy control are typically in the hands of associations of parents of the children enrolled, who elect a school board to supervise the superintendent or chief administrator whom the board chooses to administer the school. In some schools, the organization is highly formalized, comprising corporate status in the United States or in the host country, while other schools are loosely defined cooperative entities. In some locations, the schools are closely associated with the U.S. Embassy; in others, the local or international communities share direct concern for the school with the American community. All schools are subject, in varying degrees and with varying effects, to host-country laws and regulations pertaining to educational practices, importation of educational materials, personnel practices, etc. Combined annual operating budgets of the 181 schools total over $400 million. 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, mission groups, individuals and local governments, and all have received some assistance from the limited funds available under the program of the Office of Overseas Schools (a total of over $6 million annually).

The instructional programs provide a core curriculum that will prepare 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 depending on the proportion of U.S. students. Certain schools, especially in Latin America, must also fulfill host-country curriculum requirements. The curricula tend to be largely academic, with relatively little attention given to vocational or commercial education. An out-standing characteristic of most American-sponsored schools is the use they have made of their location abroad to provide foreign language and local culture programs. The quality and range of instructional materials are excellent in increasing numbers of the schools. The extent and quality of computer programs in many overseas schools, for example, exceed that of typical schools in the United States.

In terms of faculties, most of the administrators and half of the teachers are Americans or American trained. A portion of the American staff is hired locally, and a number of these are U.S. government dependent spouses. Most staff members are college graduates, and the majority holds teaching certificates. The local and third-country teachers are usually well qualified, although some lack experience in U.S. educational methods. Hiring of staff is the responsibility of the individual schools.

For further information contact:
Dr. Keith D. Miller, Director
Office of Overseas Schools
Department of State
Washington, DC 20522-0132
Tel: 202-261-8200
Fax: 202-261-8224
E-Mail: OverseasSchools@state.gov
Web: www.state.gov/www/about_state/schools/

Overseas Schools