Postcolonial emotionalism in shaping education: An analysis of international school choice in Sri Lanka

Virandi Wettewa


This research explores the proliferation of a newer kind of independent ‘international’ schools that has grown in popularity in an otherwise proscribed private education system. These schools provide both foreign and local curriculums in the English medium for a majority of local students. By welcoming students from all ethnic and religious backgrounds, international schools facilitate an agency for multiculturalism. However, the double-edged sword of business and education means that these schools are restricted to a minority that can afford the high fees.

In this paper, it is argued that English continues to be perceived as a reminder of colonial rule, a driver of social stratification and a destroyer of tradition contrary to a global language that is omnipresent in contemporary society. The study attempts to outline the reasons behind international school popularity and unpack some of the anxieties that this education system has given rise to in recent times. It looks at the government concerns as well as various stakeholder consternations of providing a ‘global education for local students’ via a mixed method research conducted in four contrasting case studies.

This paper contributes to the debates on private school choice and cultural capital; the verdict being that English proficiency and foreign credentials allow for a competitive edge in neo-liberal times yet grounding oneself in the local culture is of paramount importance if education is to be truly international.

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