Spheres of Influence: Understanding International School Choice in Malaysia

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Ingersoll, Marcea
International Schools , School Choice
This study offers a hermeneutic phenomenological inquiry into the experiences of Malaysian parents who selected an international education for their children. Data collection was conducted at one international school in Kuala Lumpur, and consisted of both a survey and interviews. The study focused on parents’ own educational background and experiences, their expectations and motivations for selecting an international school, factors affecting school choice, and attitudes to cultural and self-identities within the context of international education. Findings suggest that Malaysian parents from different age groups as well as varying ethnic and linguistic backgrounds had similar motivations for sending their children to an international school. From the data analysis, three themes emerged: aspirational priorities, discouraging influences, and enabling factors. By scaffolding my examination within the theory of reproduction in education and notions of social and cultural capital, I examined how multiple forms of economic, cultural, and social capital are recognized and mobilized in the search for a quality education in an increasingly globalized market. I conclude that Malaysian parents in this study chose an international school for their children based on experiences forged in four spheres of influence: individual, social, national, and global.
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