Lebanon’s educational history is a fascinating story of perseverance and progress. In the early 1600s, Maronite Christians established the first schools in Lebanon, initially focused on religious instruction but gradually expanded to teach languages, sciences, and mathematics. With more religious and cultural freedom granted by the Ottoman Empire in the 1800s, Lebanon saw the establishment of more schools of various types, which flourished and grew throughout the early 1900s. Today, education is compulsory in Lebanon for all children between the ages of 6 and 14, with a choice of attending either public or private schools.
Lebanon’s educational system is advanced and inclusive, reaching all segments of society. Despite relying on private institutions, the Ministry of Education for Youth and Sport has ensured that independent schools adhere to government curricula as closely as possible, resulting in a solid educational system. One of the shining examples of this system is the International College (IC) in Beirut, one of the largest international schools in the world, with a rich history dating back to 1891. With 3,600 students, the institution has evolved to become a truly unique setting in the Middle East and globally. It’s a not-for-profit organization that is proudly independent and non-sectarian, chartered in the state of Massachusetts, USA, and abiding by the laws of the Lebanese government.
Beacon of Tolerance
The ‘American Boys School’ in Smyrna, Turkey, was founded in 1891 by Canadian Protestant Pastor Reverend Alexander MacLachlan.
Following multiple name changes, the International College was finally named when the Commonwealth of Massachusetts chartered it in 1903.
Meanwhile, the American University of Beirut, which had created a Preparatory department as a feeder school to the university in 1872, was booming and extending its campus to accommodate younger students.
But, by the early 1930s, the number of Prep students was dropping. Then AUB President Bayard Dodge set about reorganizing the Prep in order to attract a broader range of pupils.
Back in Smyrna, IC was having its own problems and was forced to close in 1934. Dodge immediately invited IC to move to Beirut and join AUB’s Prep school. IC resurfaced in 1936 as International College – Beirut. The union was an instant success, with 901 students from 37 nations and 16 different religious sects enrolling in its first year alone.
Over the next few years, IC evolved into an international school, accepting students from countries across the Middle East and beyond to live in Thomson and Sage Halls as boarders. IC officially withdrew from AUB and established an independent entity in 1956. Girls were added in 1967, formally making IC a coed institution.
Throughout the Lebanese Civil War, IC served as a beacon of tolerance for the entire Lebanese population. All religious factions’ students and professors continued to attend and teach classes in Ras Beirut. In 1988, a satellite campus in Ain Aar was built to serve the children of graduates living in the vicinity. Students from preschool to middle school are still served on the Ain Aar site. The European Council of International Schools and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges both started accreding IC in 1997.
Creating Global Citizen Leaders of Tomorrow
International College’s (IC) vision is to empower today’s learners to be global citizen leaders of tomorrow.
Thus its mission is to empower learners to take initiative, think critically, and serve as role models in a global society. The curriculum aims for excellence at all levels and embraces the education of the whole person. Graduates of IC will have developed self-confidence, problem-solving and decision-making abilities, as well as self-discipline, social and environmental responsibility, and an awareness of and respect for the connected nature of the global community.
In accordance with its objective, IC is dedicated to enabling its students to become global citizen leaders of tomorrow, hence ensuring social responsibility among its students. They are held accountable for carrying out their civic responsibilities in ways that benefit society as a whole.
Incorporating Ethical Values
Social Responsibility is an integral part of IC’s learning, educational strategies, and plans. It reaches well beyond the classroom and encompasses all school topics. It teaches pupils real-world skills that they may use to save the environment and offers them the self-sufficiency they will need in the future.
International College promotes an environment of honesty, respect, responsibility, and trust. It encourages students to take pride in themselves, their talent and ability, school, teachers, and classmates. The following are conduct and honor expectations for all IC students: honesty, respect, responsibility, and compassion.
Instilling the Sense of Inclusion
The school is led by a team of seasoned educators who work under the leadership of its president with the support of a very committed international board of trustees.
IC is a very important institution in the Middle East which brings to its students a secular, non-partisan and international education.
It teaches its students to live and work in a rich environment that respects other creeds and political views and gives them an appreciation for diversity and differences.
Resilience in Turbulent Times
IC has turned a truly challenging situation into an opportunity to grow and keep improving.
During the health crisis of COVID-19 – IC persevered and continued its educational mission in the best available and satisfactory manner. During those turbulent times, IC proved to be at the forefront of online education in Lebanon. IC’s Board of Trustees invested significantly in technology; therefore, IC’s technological infrastructure was fully upgraded, and teachers as well as administrators went through thorough training on technology for the classroom.
Due to the country’s current inflation and the drastic drop of the Lebanese pound against the US dollar, the tuition fee was increased by 25 per cent, but because IC does not want to lose students and families for financial reasons, IC expanded the tuition assistance program and facilitated its families’ access to it.
Wide Range of Outdoor Activities
Student activities are an integral part of an IC education, in line with the philosophy that taking part in life outside the classroom through co-curricular activities is crucial to helping students develop initiative, self-confidence, and responsible citizenship. To develop these essential attributes, IC offers a large variety of clubs and societies (over 130) that are cultural, philanthropic, athletic, and social. Depending on the age of the student, co-curricular activities include drama, debate, music, and a variety of art activities.
A rigorous athletic program consisting of 12 sports, 1,540 student-athletes, 59 teams and 43 coaches. IC Cougars take part in local and international competitions and attend sports meets and conferences such as the Near Eastern Sports and Academic Conference and OASIS.
Extra-curricular activities include the Arabic club, math club, press, photography, folk dancing, archery, chess, general knowledge, cinema, and robotics (complementing its pioneering STEAM education and facilities). Each club or activity is led by a faculty member who is highly knowledgeable about the subject.
IC students take part in national and international conferences of the Model United Nations, national science fairs, national and international environmental conferences, drama productions, and in music competitions and concerts both inside and outside Lebanon. IC’s location makes it accessible to historical sites and cultural events in and around Lebanon. Educational and recreational field trips are scheduled into the academic year.
Students visit theatres, museums, historical sites, art exhibitions, and book fairs. They go on field trips related to their science, environmental studies, art, and social studies courses. Extra-curricular activities at school are crucial in producing well-rounded students. They go hand in hand with academics.
STEAM plays a leading role in IC’s mission to empower and guide students through an innovative learner-driven technology program.
IC educators have worked hard to establish a customized curriculum. It has allocated a well-trained group of teachers to implement the STEAM approach. Their main task is to design updated lessons as dictated by the ever-changing STEAM world. They train and coordinate with other teachers to help ‘STEAM-ify’ their lesson plans. The objective is to integrate STEAM components into all programs and at all IC Ras Beirut and Ain Aar levels.
IC has created ten state-of-the-art labs in Ras Beirut and Ain Aar and equipped them with the latest digital equipment, including computers, robots, electronic devices, digital design and 3D printing tools, laser cutters, woodworking, and metalworking equipment, in addition to creative and professional software curriculum resources. Each activity has an allocated workspace with seating, tables, and presentation equipment.
Leading the Change
IC offers its students a unique combination of four academic international and national programs in three different languages of instruction: Arabic, French and English.
Furthermore, through co-curricular activities, academic and international athletic tournaments, civic commitment initiatives, national and international conferences of the Model United Nations, international environmental conferences, drama productions, music competitions, and concerts both inside and outside Lebanon, IC offers a vast array of opportunities for students to develop leadership skills and contribute to society, locally and globally. Students are encouraged to use their knowledge and talents to make an impact and lead change.
The Council of International Schools, CIS, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, NEASC, the Agency for French Education Abroad, AEFE, accredit IC. Furthermore, the International Baccalaureate Organization, IBO authorizes IC to offer the Primary Years Program, PYP, and the Diploma Program, DP.
IC has been granted the certificate for institutions by the Global Schools Program, which encourages primary and secondary schools to actively learn about, engage with, and act on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Staying on the Path of Innovation.
Students who graduate from IC become part of a huge international alum network that is very active and supportive of IC.
IC graduates are faced with a unique opportunity to take a collective part in this network and avail themselves of the invaluable support it can bring them. IC also expects its alums to carry on with the school’s mission and vision and become positive global citizens who will be active in their community and contribute to a better world.
IC is a 132-year-old institution which has a rich tradition and is always on the path of innovation. IC’s stability will allow it to continue flourishing for many years to come.