Review of Pearce, R. (2013)

Pearce, Richard. (ed). (2013). International Education and Schools: Moving Beyond the First 40 Years. London: Bloomsbury, 2013.

Reviewed by Regina Fuller

Too often the international education discourse focuses exclusively on schools in resource-poor communities in various national contexts. While much is known about curriculum and teacher practices for students studying and living in poverty, little is known about the education of their richer peers who attend private international schools. In most countries, international schools are cloistered behind high walls of security, privacy, and exclusivity. International Education and Schools: Moving Beyond the First 40 years provides a detailed view into the unknown world of international schooling from 1972 to 2012.

Editor Richard Peace and colleagues present an eleven-chapter monograph that ranges from the history of international schooling to current discourses and critiques of the international school movement. The volumes eleven chapters are split into three sections detailing the history of international schools, emerging themes within the field, and critiques. Pearce and colleagues were inspired to write the monograph after celebrating the 40-year anniversary of the International School of London, the school that later birthed International Baccalaureate (IB) program. After beginning the monograph, the reader may be anxious to know what is international school and what is not an international school. In the introduction however, Pearce is hesitant to define what an international school is. One key trait of international schools, Pearce argues is their isolation from their “host national environment” (xix). Later in Chapter One, Hayden and Thompson add “[international schools] offer a curriculum that is not of the host country” (4). Pearce and his colleagues’ reluctance to set a criteria of international schooling reflects the ambiguity of the field. At a minimum, international schools offer a non-national curriculum.

Part one of the monograph provides a brief history of international schools, demographic trends in the field, and analysis of corporate expatriate policies that support international education. Hayden and Thompson outline the field of international schools. They argue that globalization has yielded growth in the field of international education. Defining international schools as privately funded schools that offer a non-national curriculum, the authors offer a three-part typology of international schools. Type A schools are those traditionally considered as international schools: they serve the children of expatriates. Type B schools or ideological international schools “have been created specifically to bring young people together based on an underpinning ideology” (6). Type C schools or non-traditional international schools are the newest schools and have risen in response to a demand from middle-class elites who value international education over their own national education systems. Hayden and Thompson conclude there will continue to be a growth in Type C schools as the global economy grows.

Brummitt and Keeling explain the demographic trends of enrollment and growth of international schools around the world. According to their data, in 2000 there were 2,584 international schools in the world, with the majority of schools being located in the United Arab Emirates, Spain, and Hong Kong (22). In six years, the number of international schools in Asia exceeded all other world regions, with 49% of schools located in Asia in countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, China, and India. It is not surprising to note that as wealth increases for the richest 5% of parents, so does demand for international schools. Susan Shortland in Chapter Three, reviews literature on educational provision for children as a part of financial support packages for expatriate families. Expatriate staff generally send their children to Type A international schools in which the tuition is funded in part or whole by expatriate employers. Thus an analysis of international schools must include the company policies that encourage expatriate parents to move abroad with their children. Shortland found that over half of employers provided educational support to the expatriate staff (41). Overall, however the number of expatriate staff who are accompanied by children in other countries has decreased from 51% in 2008 to 43% in 2012 due to the rise in unaccompanied and flexible short-term assignments (41).

Part two of the monograph shifts from an overview of the international school landscape to emerging themes in the field. Pearce discusses the challenge of the diversity of the student body in international schools and teaching faculty pedagogy. In a similar vein, Carder considers the diversity of language backgrounds students have in international schools. He argues that pedagogic responses to linguistic diversity of Second Language Learners should not be assimilationist but “one of pluralism and multiculturalism” (88). Wilkinson and Wilkinson document the influence of John Pestalozzi, the education leader who inspired the creation of International Baccalaureate (IB). Pestalozzi advocated for an education of “the head, heart, and hands,” and education should help to “develop to the full each person’s unique potential” (108). Roberts contends that IB curriculum should truly reflect education for a better world.

The last section of the book brings a critical lens to international schools. Using discourse analysis, Allan analyzes the discourse on globalization and international education. He posits that the discourse on international education has two strands: one that promotes a “market-driven globalization or multinationalism” form of education that includes the promotion of Western education for local elites and the other that promotes “internationalism”, an education that includes “international understanding and responsible citizenship” (156). Cambridge uses Bernsteinian analysis to review debates within the IB community around curriculum, evaluation, and student selection into the program.

Overall this monograph provides a detailed overview of the world of international schooling for readers who may be unfamiliar with this sector of international education. The first section offers a typology of schools and demographic trends that guide this field. While the first two sections of the book may be descriptive in nature, the final section aptly employs critical theory to examine multiple discourses and debates within international schools. It is challenging to create an edited volume in which each chapter speaks to a common theme, and at times the work feels disjointed. If the reader is looking for research on international schools outside of Europe, they will need to seek additional texts. Likewise, the volume’s concomitant focus on schools that offer IB and debates within IB may not be useful to researchers interested in other ‘international’ or non-national curricula.

This monograph speaks directly to researchers, graduate students, and international school faculty and administration who desire to learn about the origins of international schooling and current themes and discourses surrounding International Baccalaureate curriculum. In the final chapter of the volume, Caffyn opens with a reference to the 1945 film I Know where I am going. It is clear from this volume that globalism and economic growth have heralded a new era in international schools and debates on diversity, curriculum, and internationalism have been present in the field for the past four decades. Yet it is unknown where the future of international schooling is going in the next forty years in regions such as Asia and Africa that have a growing cadre of international schools. This volume offers fodder for future researchers to peer behind the private walls of international schools in regions around the world to illustrate how middle-class parents and students negotiate globalization and internationalism through schooling.