The BIFS Story

The History of Busan International Foreign School (BIFS)


There is no such thing as a quiet school year. International School of Busan (ISB) closed its doors for the final time on Dalmaji Hill on the 23rd June. This was followed by a hectic summer of moving, ordering new equipment, furniture and materials, making building changes and being ready for the opening day on August 23rd. The new campus has made an incredible difference to how the school can deliver its curriculum and BIFS is fast expanding its reputation both within and outside of Korea. Student numbers are growing steadily and the whole community is looking forward to the future. With around 300 students from Nursery to Grade 12 and around 50 teachers, there is no doubt that BIFS students receive an education that is second to none.


This was a year of uncertainty and final success as ISB presented its bid to operate the new Busan International Foreign School located just outside Songjeong. The new campus with its wonderful facilities would complement the strong academic programmes of ISB and after months of preparation and presentations, it was announced on the final day of the school year that ISB had been selected. Next came the negotiations over the wording in the contract. Finally in November 2009, the papers were signed and ISB was ready to transform into BIFS for the start of the 2010-11 year.


ISB gained authorization to also offer the IB Diploma Programme for Grades 11 and 12. Also, after four or five years of training and preparation, ISB became only the second school in Korea to achieve authorization to offer the IB Primary Years Programme. There was no doubt as to the high level of academic excellence offered in all areas of the school. This was also the year when the school celebrated its 25th anniversary. With guest speakers from around the world and internet links with past principals along with the preparation of a time capsule to be opened after another 25 years. It was also fascinating to look back at pictures of the Haeundae / Dalmaji area over the past 25 years and beyond when it was totally separate from the main Busan city.


With steadily growing enrolments, the school once again outgrew its building and expanded its campus by opening a separate Early Learning Centre in a fascinating building that used train carriages as part of the building. Unsurprisingly, it became popularly known as ‘the train school’. 2006 also saw the introduction of the High School programme with the start of the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) from the University of Cambridge.


After this period of difficulty, the financial situation and the quality of the education system continued to improve each year. By 2002 the school’s enrollment had grown to 72. Approximately half of these were in the pre- grade 1 classes.


After the Asian financial crisis the rules in Korea changed to make it legal for foreigners to buy land. This allowed the process of acquiring a longer term site for the school to start. After a lot of site inspections and financial checks the school was able to secure a site on Dalmaji Hill and the process of designing and getting building permits started. In September of 1999 the school moved into the new facilities and the grand opening took place on October 22, 1999.


The school is a long time member of the European Council of International Schools and received accreditation by this major international education organisation in 1994.


In the beginning of 1990 the school moved again to school facilities provided by Tong Myong University, close to United Nations Memorial cemetery site.


The student body grew steadily to reach 50+ children and in 1986 the school moved from Banyeo-dong to a new location in the Choryang area. More teachers were hired and the school slowly grew in size.


In September 1985, George Rennie became the first elected Chairman of the International School of Pusan Board of Governors. The school continues today to operate under these Articles of the Association with the Board of Governors being elected by the membership which is made up by the parents of the children attending the school.


The International School of Pusan opened in September 1983 with seven young pupils in kindergarten and elementary school, and two teachers. Busan was not the expatriate centre that it is today but still the parents wanted their children to have a world-standard international education (rather than a national system education), so that they could transfer around the world. They also wanted a caring, nurturing, family-like ethos which would give the children a high level of self confidence and esteem, and would teach them tolerance and respect for other cultures. The basic education principles of BIFS were formed!