International education has been compared with other globally marketed goods and services such as soft drinks and hamburgers: a reliable product conforming to consistent quality standards throughout the world. This articles brings out the benefits of International education, to an extent such that, now a days International Schools constitute a network of independent franchised distributors, of globally branded international education products and services.
Like it or not, we are all branded, International education as the term signifies the type of education offered within a wide variety to choose from popularly known as International Schools. These schools serve the needs of globally mobile children with a diverse culture and background. However, many a times it is falsely stated that International Schools are those where International education takes place. This can be argued because an International School may offer a curriculum which makes no claims to be international unlike an International Baccalaureate (IB) or International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE). International schools operate in local markets all over the world, as franchised distributors of globally branded international education products and services such as International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) , Cambridge International education(CIE) and the US based college board Advanced Placement International Diploma(APID). International Schools infuses a fresh talent in the society in terms of quality assurance through, the application of internationally accredited curriculum, the spread of global accredited procedures, the spread of global education standards and global certification of educational qualifications. Branding international education in a host country facilitates educational continuity for children of global mobile clientele, as well as the host country clientele with a outlook towards social mobility and global exposure.
An international School by image is more in itself a brand because it can be identified with an overall customer experience and distinguishes itself by its position relative to its competition. It can be argued that, schools act as retailers of products i.e. academic qualifications that are manufactured by examination boards. Its more like a symbiotic relationship where schools and boards are joined together, because the educational boards requires the schools knowledge of local markets while the schools derive benefit from their association with their name and reputation of the branded product that they are retailing. The establishment of quality standards through accreditation is a critical part of the franchising process. IBO for example is promoting “IB World Schools” which are authorized to offer programmes of the IBO using a trade marked logo. Marketing and branding of international education operates in two levels: symbolic and serviceable ~because it communicates ideas and power and at the same time satisfies human needs.
International schools are now a days also offering range of Indian curriculums which allows its brand stretching. However, it is important to ensure that this process does not dilute the core values of the brand, thereby weakening its proposition. Stretching of International programmes maybe by vertical, with different programmes serving unique age group example in case of IB it is from IB Diploma (IBDP) to Middle Years (IBMYP) and Primary Years (IBPYP) Programmes. Secondly, horizontal with a range of programmes serving same ages for example The Cambridge International Examinations board is horizontally stretched to include GCE Advanced(A) levels and The Advanced International Certificate of Education(IGCSE) towards the same age cohort. In context of international education, brand stretching may be identified as International Schools diversifying into new areas like different student ages, different subjects or different modes of assessment.
Product branding is ultimately the future of the International School, the aim of branding is to retain the consumer loyalty in this case the parents and encourage repeat purchases of services i.e. possibility of any siblings attending the same school. Applied to International Schools the functional attributes of brand personality of the school include transferability of qualification to other educational systems and their recognition by higher educational institutions, the language of instruction, curriculum content and mode of assessment. The International board bodies are considered global brands since they are strong in their home markets, have a geographical balance in sales and address similar consumer needs in different countries and thirdly maintain a product category focus by being associated with a particular product identifiable with a corporate name.