International School Manila

Integrity - Service - Merit

Learning at ISM


...concepts have a higher payoff for learners. They elevate learners to a new level of understanding in a domain and open the way to further and deeper learning."

~ David Perkins, 2014


Learning at ISM - One School: Three Divisions

The educational experience at ISM places the Learner at the center of everything we do. Guided by our Mission and Core Values, we seek to engage all students in meaningful learning experiences that build on their knowledge and understanding, encourage curiosity and reflection, and lead to an appreciation of complex concepts.

Our Preschool through Grade 12 curriculum is the product of countless hours of conversation, collaboration, and rigorous evaluation and is subject to constant revision by teachers and principals. It is our intention that the knowledge, understanding, skills, and dispositions we value in our educational program will serve our students through school, university, and into their careers.  

ISM makes use of schoolwide subject area standards that are organized appropriately for the learner at each grade level. Our curriculum is written using the Understanding by Design framework, where units of study are developed by teams of teachers to identify and target specific conceptual understanding in line with ISM’s Key Learning Principles. ISM has developed a set of Assessment Principles that all teachers employ to improve student learning. Assessments inform instruction, offer meaningful feedback for the learner, and effectively measure student attainment of learning goals.


Elementary School

At ISM Elementary School, we strive to create a warm and supportive environment that is committed to meeting the social, emotional and academic needs of our students. Throughout their learning experience at ISM ES, children develop the understanding that how they think and feel directly mediates their learning. They develop a growing awareness of themselves as learners, and reflect on their changing understandings. 

In Preschool, we have an Emergent Curriculum. This means that the teachers listen to the ideas and interests of the children, then guide them to inquire into these interests while focusing on the development of our dispositions and learning skills. From Kindergarten to Grade 4, we teach concept-based units of study that frame our learning around ‘big ideas’ and allow us to meet the Common Core Mathematics and English Language Arts Standards, the Next Generation Science Standards and the ISM adopted Standards for Social Studies. Students are also taught Physical Education, Art and Music by specialist teachers. 

In every discipline area, our students learn through an inquiry-based approach, where key concepts, content, skills and dispositions are uncovered to allow students to make meaning and construct their own understanding. We also have a diverse co-curricular program that provides students with opportunities to explore and cultivate areas of interest beyond the classroom learning.


Middle School

Middle School at International School Manila is a time when students are transitioning from childhood to their adolescent years. This is an exciting and challenging time for both the students themselves and the adults in their lives supporting them through this journey. We believe in the following characteristics that are supported throughout our Middle School program. We are:

  • developmentally responsive, taking into consideration the nature of young adolescents as the foundation on which all decisions are made;
  • challenging, recognizing that every student can learn and everyone is held to high expectations;
  • empowering, providing all students with the knowledge and skills they need to take control of their lives;
  • equitable, advocating for every student’s right to learn and providing challenging and relevant learning opportunities;
  • internationally minded, being aware of the importance of acknowledging and benefitting from the cultural diversity that exists in our community and how we use this to broaden perspectives and tolerance throughout our community.

In general, all Middle School students are required to take English, Social Studies, Mathematics, Science, Modern Language, Physical Education, Wellness and individual Elective options. Grades 5 and 6, all students take one semester of Art and one semester of Drama, along with music elective choices. In Grades 7 and 8, students can take a year-long and one semester elective or three semester electives.


High School

The High School curriculum at International School Manila is designed to prepare students to become well-rounded, life-long learners who care for their local and global community, and strive to be the best versions of themselves. This is achieved through an academically challenging set of courses that put students on a path towards gaining ISM’s High School Diploma, a recognized qualification for North American colleges and universities.

ISM values critical thinking, effective communication, problem-solving, and reflection. Students are encouraged to follow their passions and interests, as well as choose appropriate courses for their future career plans. A significant majority of our students in Grades 11 and 12 take the full IB Diploma, with most others opting to study for some subjects at Certificate level. The program offered is varied and allows students some degree of flexibility, particularly in Grades 11 and 12, where there is an extensive array of IB subjects to choose from. In addition, there are a range of elective courses for students in Grades 9 and 10 that include Robotics, Digital Photography, Ceramics, Graphic Design, Computer Programming, Film, Visual Arts, Theater, Peer Counseling among others.

As well as academic courses, ISM prides itself on the vast range of co-curricular learning experiences it provides. Students are given the opportunity to develop in the visual and performing arts, forensics, and sports. They are encouraged to become leaders within the community by taking on responsibilities outside the classroom and developing skills in organizing, motivating and modeling good citizenship.

There is a strong service component to the High School, with all students becoming involved in activities that help foster an appreciation for their environment and the people in it. Through annual ICARE experiences (Week Without Walls), students have the opportunity to develop a sense of volunteerism that permeates throughout their four years with us. All Clubs, Councils and Honor Societies are affiliated with a service project and there are a myriad of opportunities for students to find their niche.

When students graduate from ISM, and move on to the next stage of their careers, they do so with the qualities needed to be happy and successful in life, both inside and outside the classroom.