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Celebrating Your International School’s Culture Through Your Website
Debbie Eisenach

From India to Indonesia, to Mozambique and the Netherlands, Finalsite works with schools in more than 100 countries. Across the globe, many school websites capture the unique culture of the local community, offering a rich and diverse experience to families.

During the past decade, the definition of what it means to be an international school has expanded. Jane Larsson, Executive Director at the Council of International Schools wrote that the new generation of international schools has seen increases in the local student and staff population and more pride in their cultural heritage. This has influenced schools to incorporate more of their local traditions into their online representations with greater purpose and esteem.

Celebrating your school’s identity with creativity and confidence can better represent your curriculum, programs, and community to prospective families looking for an authentic world-class educational experience.

Ahead, we’re breaking down some of our favorite international school websites that celebrate their rich local culture and serve as an inspiration for other schools looking to do the same.

Jakarta Intercultural School | Indonesia (JIS)

Indonesian batik is known for its ability to speak through its patterns and symbols. In 2012, JIS wanted to strengthen its connection with Indonesia and help preserve the symbolic heritage of its host country. They worked with a renowned Indonesian fashion designer and an expert in batik design to help create their own unique batik using the traditional symbols that had a specific meaning for their school.

JIS homepage screenshot

“We wanted to make the families, both local and international, feel the connection to Indonesia right from when they landed on our website,” said Lingga Murni Andarini, webmaster at JIS. “The JIS batik is a true example of passion, inquisitiveness, and creativity that we have as a community, as stated in our school values. It's not only used in clothing but also as a graphic representation of our brand identity across all channels. By exploring the designs, finding the many layers of meaning, and creating our own interpretation of the messages therein, we can each learn how to be best for the world by protecting something that is in danger of being lost.”

screenshot of JIS values

Their Core Values graphic incorporates the main themes of their batik while their logo, a Sidho, is a lattice of four images that form a larger diamond, with the hope that the elements enclosed will become reality. The vines were inspired by those wrapped around the trees on campus and represent the connection with each other, with Indonesia, and with the greater world. And finally, the Tree of Knowledge is based on the Pattimura tree around which the school was originally built. This blending of Indonesian culture with the practical elements of a school website is uniquely combined to engage prospective families and highlight the school’s connection to its heritage.

American Embassy School | New Delhi, India (AES)

As the American Embassy School prepares for its 70th-anniversary celebration, the richness of the school’s history bubbles like a good Indian curry. New flavors and spices, both subtle and complex, emerge with the research conversations the planning team initiates. From alumni stories about the Dalai Lama’s time on campus to community members’ enthusiasm about local community projects to accounts of campus visits with dignitaries such as President Eisenhower, life for students, teachers, and staff at AES has always been an immersive and sensory experience — and one of the mind and body which could only have been facilitated in Delhi.   

Ylva Kovacs, director of admissions, elaborates on the integration of school life and Indian culture, by sharing the Alumni Association’s homegrown motto: “India Lives in All of Us.” While AES is an international school with students from 70 countries, the school’s celebration of these multiple heritages is best in conjunction with efforts to first learn about, honor, and understand Indian culture. 

“While we all bring great diversity to AES, the spirit and culture of our host country can be commonality, our bridge.” Kovacs said. “Our culture of belonging is integral to our mission; we need to foster a sense of belonging for everyone and that starts with making sure we are well-woven into the fabric of New Delhi life. We want to help newcomers feel at home in India and Indians to feel at home within the AES community.”

AES Mission design

This emphasis then paves the way for the cultural exchange and understanding between all the other 70+ cultures represented on campus. It also bolsters the students’ sense of humility and agency — qualities that many have arrived with, given their parents’ work with NGOs and within the diplomatic community — qualities that AES wants to strengthen so their students most authentically live the school’s motto: “Enter to Learn, Leave to Serve.” 

Screenshot of AES Mission

AES honors and nurtures its relationship and bloodline with India from all corners of campus. And this can be seen through their website: sprinkled through the site are key elements from Indian culture including the Rangoli, an art of decoration drawn on the floor or the entrances of homes, native flowers, and Indian textiles.

Furthermore, AES chose their secondary color palette for their website redesign directly from the rich colors found throughout Indian life — including the colorful array of sari dresses, of curries and other spices, and from the abundant greens, yellows, and reds of the flora and fauna.

screenshot of AES footer

The AES website also features a Banyan tree as its footer. This represents the actual tree planted in 1961 during the inauguration of their new campus but also the tree’s many meanings. The tree represents the ability to grow and survive, the ability to provide fulfillment of wishes, and specifically to the AES community, the sense of home. Generations of students remember this tree not only for its prominence on campus and hours of sitting under it with friends but also for its greater significance.

American International School of Mozambique | Mozambique (AISM)

For many, finding Mozambique on a map would be challenging, but for prospective families looking at AISM, they quickly identify with the continent of Africa. With over 20 percent of AISM’s students and staff being native Mozambicans, the school is honored to be residents of such a rich and diverse part of southeastern Africa. The website states, “Our celebration of Mozambique's rich heritage reaches well beyond Capulana Friday, when we wear with pride the bright fabrics that you see worn everywhere, or the flavors of the peri-peri chicken, which we love!”

Screenshot of AISM homepage

AISM celebrates their home in the capital city of Maputo and shares that “the spirit of Mozambique is found in our love of our neighbor, the peaceful and warm spirit that exudes from our community, and the grit and determination that accompanies the “anything is possible” optimism of Maputo.” 

The banner on their website is their own custom capulana design, a traditional bright patterned fabric worn in Mozambique. The curved horns of the Cape Buffalo, a native species, are found in various designs on campus including their custom Capulana design, the school logo, and it also serves as their official mascot.

screenshot fo AISM leaners

Their homepage showcases their diverse community and shares testimonials from their community of learners, leaders, mentors, and stewards further showing the connections in the community.

The American School of the Hague | The Netherlands (ASH)

Website footers are often “the forgotten section,” but like the final touches on a fancy meal, giving that extra thought is incredibly important. For engaged site visitors who have scrolled down to the footer of ASH’s site, they are delighted by an animation of all things Dutch — windmills, bicycles, and tulips.

American School of the Hague footer animatino

AISM also emphasizes its engagement and service in the local community. “We value our home in Wassenaar,” the site details, “and enjoy a collaborative partnership with our many neighbors. Through our community programs we further help weave and tighten our already strong community fabric.”

Screenshot of the American School of the Hague service

Tanglin Trust School | Singapore (TTS)

Founded in 1925, TTS is older than the country it’s in. This interactive timeline reflects and celebrates the rich history surrounding the school and shows how it has been an integral part of Singapore through major historical events. It also includes elements of pop culture providing a different frame of reference for the non-historical buffs.

Screenshot of Tanglin Trust School's timeline

Key takeaway

More and more international schools see the importance and benefits of celebrating and living more within the local culture. Families and faculty are looking for more authentic experiences as they evaluate schools, so sharing how you weave this into the daily lives of your community is important. These schools serve as an inspiration for others looking to do the same.

International Website Showcase  | Finalsite


Debbie Eisenach

As part of Finalsite's International Marketing Manager, Debbie has worked with international schools for the past 11 years while living in both Asia and Europe. She helps schools understand how they can maximize their web presence while partnering with Finalsite. As a parent of three children who graduated from IB World Schools, she has keen insights into the marketing and communication needs of international schools.

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