Master List of Tier 1 Schools?

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Master List of Tier 1 Schools?

Post by euxpat »

I keep hearing Tier 1, Tier 2 etc schools. How does one find out which school is what? I think I may have even worked at one, but not sure.

Found this list for Asia but is this complete? and what about other continents?

Shanghai American School
International School Bangkok
International School Kuala Lumpur
Western Academy Beijing
Taipei American School
International School Manila
American School in Japan
Jakarta International School
Hong Kong International School
American School in Guangzhou
Singapore American School
International School Beijing
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Post by durianfan »

I'm not sure if I agree with your list. Of those you listed, the tier 1s are:

Shanghai American School
International School Bangkok
Western Academy Beijing
American School in Japan
Singapore American School

not sure about the others you listed. IS Manila and Taipei American are definitely not tier 1s.

A few others:

Yokohama International School
American School of Bombay
Hong Kong Discovery College
Renaissance College, Hong Kong
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Post by Mr.C4ke »

How many on the list are elephants? How many blue whales?
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Post by cdn »

This seems to be a heated topic at times.Personal opinions abound. I'm not sure why Durian wouldn't include IS Manila, Jakarta, or Taipei, but would include Shanghai American School and Discovery. Again, personal opinions as My dealings with Shanghai American School left a bad taste in my mouth and I couldn't be happier that my wife and I are going to one of the schools left off his list. Everything about our new school screams excellence.
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Post by mbovi »

Where's United World College in this list?
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Post by eion_padraig »

Well the international organization that takes care of this has a website, but it appears to be down.

Standard Tiers of Unifying Principles for International Definition’s website with the master list of all the different schools’ current tier status has all this information. You should check back by doing a Google search every so often until the website re-appears.
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Post by Canada11 »

Tier one schools in Hong Kong would be #1 CIS (Chinese International School) and #2 CDNIS (Canadian International School). Hong Kong International School is a distant third and it's debatable whether or not it's tier one. Renaissance College and Discovery College might be good schools but somewhat unheard of in the international circuit.

The American School in Guangzhou is definitely not a tier one school. Guangzhou is definitely not a tier one city as it has absolutely nothing to offer except pollution.

South America's tier one schools are few: Graded in Sao Paulo and Nido de Aguilas in Santiago. I think Escuela Campo Alegre in Caracas and Lincoln in Buenos Aires were top schools years ago but due to their country's economic woes, they are former shadows of what they previously were.
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Post by jbiersteker »


I find it interesting that none of the Korean schools are listed. Is that because many of them have so many Koreans in the school? Surely it can't be for Academic reasons.

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Post by Ddd »

Bangkok Patana School
Alice Smith KL
Tanglin Trust School Sg
British School of Manila
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Post by shadowjack »

LOL Mr.C4ke! Good one!

Honestly, Tier 1 and 2 are variable depending on country. For instance, ASD (American School of Dhaka) is a Tier 1 school for Bangladesh, but not a Tier 1 school in comparison to others. I have friends at ISM (Manila) and they love it. It is arguably the top school in the Philippines, although others might argue that (PsyGuy? PsyGuy? Buehler? Anybody? :-).

Take it all with a grain of salt and realize that your tier 1 might not be somebody else's tier 1. jbiersteker, there are some good schools in Korea - not sure if any are "tier 1", although for Korea, some will definitely be tier 1 - perhaps SIS, for instance, or SFS.
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Post by Trojan »

Pure hearsay, but I have heard Cotopaxi in Ecuador and FDR in Peru are Tier 1, for their respective countries.
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Post by Alexandru »

ASFM (American School Foundation of Monterrey) in Monterrey, Mexico is definitely 1st tier for the country.
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Post by PsyGuy »


::Giggle::, you made tea come out my nose.


There is no objective definition of Tier 1, Tier 2, or Tier 3, and as such there is no "master list" of who is in which list, and to that end even if there was no one would agree on it. Youd have some consensus with schools like WAB (Beijing), and ISB (Bangkok), but there would still be a lot of disagreement. Though if your on the international school circuit long enough you get a feel for which schools are at which tier. School quality also has a lot to do with where you are a tier 2 school in Hong Kong, might be a tier 1 school in mainland China...

At best you could consider the DOS assisted schools and the COBIS schools a pretty good start for tier 1 schools.

There is no "definition" of Tier 1, Tier 2, or Tier 3. Its all subjective, in general when teachers describe a tier 1, etc school from one another it comes down to

1) Compensation package
2) Work environment.

Historically the compensation package is the priority, not because of greed or anything, but because its easy to quantify. If your in Brazil, $30K is better then $28K. Schools that pay more for a given region tend to have more stable finances (a sign of longevity, given enrollment, and reputation), and have larger endowments, meaning they have been around long enough to develop efficiency and have well planed capitol projects. Better schools can charge more in fees, and be more selective in their admissions. This creates more "cash" on hand for salaries and benefits.


Typically includes (in this order of importance/priority:

1) Salary (based on number of contract or teaching hours per week)
2) Housing (including utility costs)
3) Tuition (If you have kids. In addition if you have a non teaching spouse, how easy is it for them to find a job)
4) Transportation (Including Airfare, moving, and settling in allowances).
5) Insurance (Mostly how good the medical is)
6) Retirement (Including end of year bonuses).


Working conditions is the far more subjective of the two. It means something slightly different to everyone. But can include as a general principal (and these get more "fuzzy" the lower I go):

1) Staff/Faculty/Parents:How qualified are your co teachers? Do they know what they are doing? Do the aids, secretaries try and help you? Is the PTA crazy helicopter parents? Are the parents really the ones running the school?

2) Admins Management Style: Biggest reason for a school to go down hill. Does the admin back the teachers? Are they just a spokesperson for the owners? Do they yield to parent pressure? Do they value faculty input? Do they care?

3) Organization: Does the front/back office run efficiently? Do you get reimbursed in a timely fashion? Are salaries paid on time? Is the school relationship with the local immigration bureau good, can they process visas, permits, etc quickly?

4) Resources: Do you have a projector? Access to computers, internet? Can you make copies when you need too. What about textbooks, are they old and out dated, do teachers even use them? Whats the library look like? Whats the cafeteria look like (do they feed the teacher lunch?) Do you have a classroom/department budget, or do you have to ask for everything?

5) Academics: Do they have a curriculum? Do they use the curriculum? Does the department share a common curriculum or does everybody teach what they know and prefer? What are the assessment/grading policies and procedures?

6) Community: Are the people nice, friendly, helpful? What's there too do in the area? Is it safe? Clean? Is transportation easily accessible? Availability of shopping/groceries? Medical Care? This could be a long one....


1st tier schools are typically non-profit private prepatory schools that focus on an international student body. They are very westernized, and would be very similar to a private school in western cultures.

2nd tier schools are private private non-profits that act like for profits. They are predominately domestic students, who are affluent. They are equivalent to a "good" public school in a western culture.

3rd tier schools are for profit schools that are run as business. The purpose is to make generate revenue, and provide the owner with some level of prestige and status. Education is just the product, the students parents just the consumers.

Most 3rd tier schools advertise on TIE Online, Joy Jobs, and with SEARCH. You can also find them on Daves ESL Cafe (They advertise everywhere, except the "selective" recruitment agencies, such as ISS)

Tier 3 schools either pay very well because the only reason someone would work there is the money, or they pay enough to get by. Most of these schools are in the middle east or africa. There are some very "beautiful" schools that Dante could use to deepen the levels of hell a bit, and the only reason they have faculty is because 1) The money, 2) Desperate teachers who cant do any better. Of course one issue that i see common with Tier 3 schools is related to "safety" either the regional culture is very very rigid, with serious consequences for what you might consider "minor rule infractions" or the region/area could become quickly hostile and dangerous...

Your typical "ESL School" is right around the border between tier 3 and tier 2 schools.

"Elite" (also called prestige or premier) schools are a subset of tier 1 schools, that represent the top school(s) in the region.

An "elite" or "premiere" international school is simply the top (or contested top) tier one school in a region (or city). What differentiates them is they usually have the best reputation in an area as "THE" school, and you see that in a compensation package that is substantially higher then the other tier one schools in the area, as well as in their staff support, resources, and facilities.

For example; ISB (Bangkok) is typically seen as the elite school in Bangkok. ISB (Beijing) is usually tied with WAB (Western Academy of Beijing) in Beijing/China. SAS (Singapore American School) is seen as the elite school in Singapore. ASP (Paris) is the elite school is France. IS Frankfurt is usually (lot of debate on this) considered the Elite school in Germany. ASIJ is well thought of as the elite school in Japan.

Tier status is only comparable to other schools within a region. Local economies, costs of living, cultural differences make global comparisons unhelpful. For example; most european schools dont provide housing, and taxes are high so even though salaries would rival many that you would find in a place like China, the savings potential and lifestyle you can live are very different (and often better in asia).

Elite (also called premier) doesnt equal easy. Elite schools typically expect a lot from their teachers. Some teachers thrive in that environment, some dont.
Why a separate category? well there is typically a substantial and significant increase in work and compensation between the "elite" school and the other tier one schools.

I guess thats 4 levels. is there a lower level, some people throw tier 4, and lower levels around, but i have to think that is really just an individual adding insult to injury when they call a particular school a "tier 4" school.
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Post by mamanaia »

Kudos, PsyGuy. I wanted to give you credit for a detailed, well thought-out, non-judgmental post. These are the kind of postings you do that are very helpful to newbies on the IT circuit. I've been a TOK teacher and I always encourage my students, as well as others I meet, to consider things from multiple perspectives and that there may not be only one right answer. Such is the case with international education. When you provide the opportunity for readers to consider multiple perspectives, you do them great service. I know that is not always the case with your postings, but I really do appreciate when you do provide this kind if info for educators.
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Post by teachermum »

I would say that International School Manila is a Tier 1, not sure why someone said it wasn't, can you please explain your reasoning? It has an excellent package, great benefits.
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