A.S./ISM History Introduction

  In 1920 a group of American and British parents living in Manila founded a school which sought to provide their children with a curriculum and atmosphere comparable to that of the finest private schools in the United States and would assist in bridging the cultural gap these children experienced by living abroad. Philippines
In 1920 the American School of Manila opened its doors for the first time. There were eight teachers including the principal, and a janitor; class numbers ranged from three to nine. The school occupied a borrowed, rent-free building, and hoped to last the year on a capital of P400,000. It was a brave beginning for an institution which still exists today, although under a different name. 

The International School of Manila now has well over 2,000 students and over 200 teachers, as well as an extensive administrative and middle-management team. The student body is subdivided into three schools, the Elementary School, the Middle School, and the High School, each with its own buildings. Three libraries are open to both staff and students. Sports activities take place in three gymnasia; two swimming pools and a newly-sodded playing field. 

The school clearly represents its constituency, the constantly changing expatriate community of Manila. There are students from around 50 countries at the school, and on average each student stays at the school for only two and a half years. For many graduates, (about 45%), their next few years will be spent at American universities. The school’s administration, curriculum, textbooks and standardized testing procedures all reflect this leaning towards the United States. The percentage of American students is lower than in earlier years, but it is still indicative of the strong American presence in Manila, seen in American businesses and the fact that the largest United States government mission abroad (with 27 separate federal agencies) is located here. 

These statistics serve merely to outline the school, making it comparable to many other large international schools around the world. But I.S. Manila has a unique background, covering more than 75 years. Its history parallels the American, and later the international, participation in the development of the Philippines. The school was founded in 1920 in response to the educational needs of American and British families who were resident in Manila, and it expanded as the numbers of Americans here increased. The location of the school moved from one district to another as the city of Manila grew in new directions. During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines (1942-1945), the school maintained and graduated classes in the Santo Tomas Internment Camp. After the war and Philippine Independence, the school resumed, adjusting many times since then to new situations and a changing student population. 

Despite obvious differences in size and location, the ISM maintains many of the original characteristics of the old American School. It has always been, first and foremost, a school belonging to the community it served. There was never a religious affiliation at the school. Although it was called the American School, it was never supported by the American government, and it was never a school for Americans only. The school has depended, then as now, on parental support. It is a non-profit organization, with tuition fees financing the operations of the school, the Board of Trustees is composed of parents, elected by parents. Building programs have been funded by the parents, either individually (by donations or the Development Fund) or by corporations where parents are employed. Community involvement in all school activities has always been of great importance. 

The school has had an interesting blend of permanent and mobile students; before the war there was a stable American business community in Manila whose children attended the American School, settled here themselves and later sent their own children to the school. Now we have Filipino students who provide a continuity in enrollment, as well as multi-national businesses and agencies like the Asian Development Bank, whose families stay in Manila for many years.

I.S. Manila is unique among international schools, and the path of its development is a very interesting one. 

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