School Mission Statements: Fact, Fantasy or Promo?

A look behind the façade of well-crafted, lofty verbiage reveals most school Mission Statements are composed of unquantifiable promises, often nothing more than well worded promos intended to lure paying customers.

In 2011, ISR visited the topic of International Schools’ Mission Statements and asked teachers to comment on their school’s statement. Did the school live up to their Mission Statement? Here’s some excerpts from that Article:


 “Eventually we came up with something that made us sound great. Only problem was…we were none of those things. It was a great piece of advertising and it helped the school sell itself to unsuspecting parents.


I challenge anyone to find a school where the majority of staff can come to consensus on just what is a “global citizen.”


“It should’ve just said: The school’s aim is make as much money as possible, to promise the world yet never deliver, to exploit staff, to provide students with crappy facilities and to forever function well below its potential”


ln our experience, there’s a direct correlation between schools with reach for the moon Mission Statements and varying degrees of chaos. From parents and students calling all the shots and regular grade fixing, to an admin who could care less if goals are met, typical pie-in-the-sky Mission Statements offer no direction, organization nor measurable goals and lead to schools adrift like a ship without a rudder.

Fortunately, not all Mission Statements fit into the above category. Here’s a solid Mission Statement with quantifiable, measurable goals as shared by an ISR member.

ABC Academy challenges its students to academic excellence through the medium of a college preparatory curriculum and U.S. academic standards, with instruction in English language. ABC Academy values community service and responsible global citizenship and promotes the integral development of each student within a multicultural setting.

ISR asks: What’s changed since our first look at International School Mission Statements almost 10 years ago? With schools popping up across the globe, is competition encouraging a focus on measurable goals and a record of meeting those goals? Or have over-the-top, unmeasurable and unobtainable promises, solely designed to steer clients away from the competition, becoming the norm? What’s the situation at YOUR school?

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13 thoughts on “School Mission Statements: Fact, Fantasy or Promo?

  1. It’s not only the statement which has purpose, but the exercise itself, of getting the staff together and focusing a discussion on what we are trying to do, or what our purpose might be.

    However, there are two problems which seem to indicate that the ‘Mission Statement’ activity is a square peg in a round box:

    1. Most international schools (maybe all), are constrained by a reliance on a single revenue stream (student fees paid by parents looking for discounts).

    2: the main purpose of schools is fairly conservative, and can’t really differ that much between different schools. There is the child-minding function; and some kind of academic and/or holistic education for the children to be good, smart, adults with lots of potential.


    1. Senseilance….excuse my cynicism and skeptical viewpoint but, while I agree that such an exercise can and should be undertaken at every school worth its salt, it need not be about a mission statement per se but rather a staff and administration committment to , as you say provide a holistic education for the children to be good,smart adults with lots of potential. The fly in the ointment is how does a school accomplish this?


  2. I’ve taught at 6 schools. Two of them asked us to create statements that we felt reflected our goals. Incoming staff worked with current staff to create an advertising masterpiece. Personally, I felt taken advantage of being asked to work on the schools sales pitch. We eventually came up with something we all agreed on was US. Problem is were none of those things, in part because the administration failed to support us in our efforts to bring a quality education to our students.


    1. It is a convenient marketing charade and such mission statements are usually bland, safe, generic, one size fits all BS that nobody in their right mind takes seriously. This ¨mission statement¨ idea comes from corporate HQ who have never been in the trenches, where an irate parent meeting quickly shreds all illusion of a so-called mission.


    1. LOL…..and every criminal recieved the same education most of us did, and every politician was the
      object of ¨education¨ as we were, and every dictator obtained a diploma of some sort from an institution and so on. As John Dewey said back in 1911, education is not an assembly line but rather a preparation for life and humane, enlightened citizenship.


  3. The best mission statements are the ones come up with by people who have been told they have to have one, and therefore put in the minimum amount of thought and effort. These tend to be ‘Ronseal’ statements – they do exactly what it says on the tin.

    The least effective are ones which have come about as a result of numerous committee meetings, then batted between SMT and teaching staff, before emerging as a group of meaningless, bland statements which everyone can agree with and yet commit to absolutely nothing. They tend to be worse when ‘consultants’ are brought in, who know virtually nothing about the school and even less about education.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. If you’ve worked in 5 schools over 8 years, your chances of getting to a school where the mission statement is alive gets slimmer with each school you change. I know it may not be your choice to have moved (trailing spouse? Economics?) but the optics to a good school looking to hire are really bad, TBH.


    1. This is really unfair. Why would teachers who value integrity and honesty stay many years at a school that looked great but was, in fact, a way to part people from their money? Schools start up affiliated with US or UK schools that LOOK good but then when they actually get started just turn out to be the same old crap. If you’ve found a good school that you can stay at for years, lucky you. But for many of us, that takes time, and trial and error. No one should be guilted into staying at an abusive school just so “it looks good on their resume”. No GOOD school should want people who would be willing to do that.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I’ve had 1 ¨good¨ school over that 8 year period, the remainder were mediocre at best and certainly 3 were absolute cash cows for their owners. My last school (I retired after ) was excellent but anonymouse, you surely appreciate that nobody in their right mind changes schools on a whim. However it is a total crapshoot when you enter international education as there are NO standards,norms, oversight or whatever, especially from so-called ¨accrediting¨ agencies, whose sole interest is in getting paid their membership fees and free vacations to ¨visit¨ their members. I’ve never had any problem with the ¨optics¨, as I always did my work professionally and transparently and changed schools either when my contract expired or I’d had enough BS.


  5. While I have had similar experiences, I now work at an international school in Malaysia whose mission statement is simply- “To provide an inclusive learning community, embracing diversity by offering a challenging IB education which empowers its members to be caring, global citizens.” And we do our darnedest to make it happen. So they’re not all bad!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. When are the head-in-the clouds, idealists on ISR ever going to realize that 90% of for-profit overseas schools are cash-cows, opened to make their owners millionaires, while offering as little as can be profitably devised, to the stakeholders (parents,kids,staff,community) and that the profit motive is the ONLY mission that these people have. Board managed schools that are not technically for profit rely on stretching their revenues as far as possible, so will also put the bottom line before their stakeholders interests,most of the time. I have worked in 5 international schools over my 8 year tenure as an expat and only one of them actually had a viable and rational mission statement. The remainder were BS academies happily creating flowery ¨mission¨ statements, while flouting any real values or ethics and constantly bending or outright breaking local and national laws, that were also written as suggestions, not legal requirements. A mission statement is only as genuine, applicable and reliable as the intention of the staff and management to honour it. It is the same BS and marketing hype used by big and medium sized corporations to fool the consumer into believing they are committed to real and measurable quality and client service… other words, as long as the bottom line doesn’t suffer, they might actually hon our their guarantees, warranties, and their word.

    Liked by 2 people

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