International School Manila opened in 1920, during the American colonial period, after American and British parents sought the establishment of a school in Manila that would provide for the long term educational needs of their children and the children of future expatriates. The American School, Inc., chartered on March 4, 1920, was a non-profit, non-stock entity that distinguished itself from other schools geared towards Manila's expatriate community by preparing its students to pursue university studies in their home countries.
The American School changed locations four times between 1920 and 1936, when it constructed a permanent campus on Donada Street in Pasay City. The Japanese occupation of Manila during World War II (1941–1945) disrupted regular schooling. The Japanese army took control over the Donada Street campus, while many expatriates were forcibly interned at the University of Santo Tomas (UST). American School classes were held intermittently among the expatriate community at UST and resumed in Donada Street after the war ended.
The American School's rapid growth in the years after the war led its administration to seek out a new location that could accommodate the school's burgeoning student population. Construction began on a new campus on Kalayaan Avenue in Bel-Air Village, Makati City. In 1970, the American School changed its name to the International School to reflect its changing enrollment patterns. Between 1965 and 1994, the percentage of American students at ISM declined from approximately 75% of the student body to just 30%. Meanwhile, the percentage of students from East Asia, South Asia, and the Philippines rose significantly. ISM's student population in the school year 2011-2012 comprised 71 different nationalities.
ISM was the first international school in the world to be recognized and accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges in 1975 and presently enjoys joint accreditation with WASC and the Council of International Schools. It is also a member of the East Asia Regional Council of Overseas Schools and has been a participating member of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme since 1975. It is a member of the Interscholastic Association of Southeast Asian Schools (IASAS), along with Jakarta International School, International School Bangkok, International School of Kuala Lumpur, Singapore American School, and Taipei American School.
In June 2000, a five-year legal struggle between the school and its locally hired teachers was resolved by the Philippine Supreme Court when it ruled that ISM could no longer use 'point-of-hire' as a basis of determining salary levels, effectively stating that ISM needed to pay the same salary to locally hired teachers as was paid to expatriate teachers hired abroad. The School complied with the ruling and reached a settlement with the teachers' union on the related issue of back wages.
In September 2000 the school began construction of a seven hectare campus on University Parkway, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City and this opened in August 2002.
In late August 2006, conflicts among the Members of the Board of Trustees emerged, particularly on the issues of the newly elected Trustees' relationship with Superintendent David Toze, the Board's apparent interference in the school's day-to-day operations, financial management, and curriculum development. Two Trustees resigned, and parents, faculty, and staff began to call for a removal of the remaining Trustees and a reconstitution of the Board. On 4 September 2006, the remaining Trustees relieved the Superintendent of his position due to his failure to control the mobilizing faculty and had him escorted off campus. The faculty declared two no-teaching days in protest. Remaining Board members resigned over the next five days.
On September 18, 2006, an Interim Board of Trustees was elected for the 2006-2007 school year. After they assumed office, the National Labor Relations Commission issued an order to reinstate David Toze as Superintendent. As one of their first acts, the Interim Board reviewed performance-related documents and concluded "all of these materials reflected strong support for David’s performance as Superintendent." In a unanimous decision, the Interim Board renewed Toze's contract through School Year 2007-2008.
ISM maintains an international alumni network through its official website, alumni.ismanila.org, where over 6,000 alumni are registered.
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