Reading the “international” through postcolonial theory: A case study of the adoption of the International Baccalaureate at a school in Lebanon


  • Iman Azzi Institute of Education, University College London


International education, international schools, International Baccalaureate, Lebanon, methodological nationalism, postcolonial theory


Considerable debate has revolved around the question of what constitutes an international school, focusing on attributes such as number of nations represented by the student body, stated curricular goals, and school culture or mission. Less attention has been paid to how “international” is lived within these schools.

This article explores the notion of the “international” at an international school in Lebanon that has recently been authorized as an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School. Joining the IB World Schools network comes with many benefits for a school, such as stronger name recognition from parents and universities and access to a global community of educators that promote lifelong learning through international education. It also signals a school’s willingness to conform to the IB’s concept of, and discourse around, the “international”. Few studies have explored how authorization as an IB World School has influenced understandings of the “international” within a school.

Qualitative data collected from the case study school highlights how understandings of the “international” have been shaped by the adoption of the IB, focusing on the central role that methodological nationalism plays within the IB’s understanding of the “international”. This article is interested in the possibilities presented by postcolonial theory as an alternative to approaches to international education that presents the nation state as the natural unit of study.

The data supports earlier findings that the IB’s approach to international education reinforces the dominance of the nation state as the central unit of study. Further, it shows evidence that not all states are being presented equally and that a continued reliance on national perspectives risks promoting a hegemonic class of states, through formal instruction, which focuses on certain nations more than others. Findings suggests that postcolonial theory could offer an important corrective seeking to rebalance the way the “international” is understood and promoted within the IB.






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