The Rise of Transnational Education Corporations in the Asia Pacific


The last decade has witnessed the emergence of a new type of player in primary and secondary education in the Asia Pacific. This type is the transnational corporation (TNC) specializing in schools. I refer to these organizations as Education TNCs, which I define as private firms that operate for-profit schools in multiple countries. This paper examines the rise of Education TNCs that run international schools in Asian countries. While a great deal has been written about for-profit education in Western countries, edu-business in the Asia Pacific has received less attention. This paper works to fill that gap. I trace the rise of the region’s major Education TNCs and analyze their efforts to expand. Against the expectation of “school choice” advocates that for-profit schooling should bring diversity through competition, I find that the growth of Education TNCs in the Asia Pacific has been a story of a few large, marketing-oriented players offering similar packages. Educationists in the Asia Pacific should pay attention to Education TNCs for two reasons. First, the activities of Education TNCs in the international school sector can shed light on what for-profit schools would look like if governments in the region were to allow school choice reforms. Second, since these firms are large, influential, and motivated to succeed in the lucrative Asia Pacific market, they may have a greater and greater impact on the education landscape in the region.

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  1. 1.

    Figures on revenue and students worldwide on these three firms—GEMS Education, Cognita, and Nord Anglia—are compiled from the following sources: Education Investor (2015); Glass (2014); Rai (2014); Reuters (2014).

  2. 2.

    Unless otherwise noted, references to particular schools come from my interviews at those schools in 2014.

  3. 3.

    I attended a talk by Varkey on 15 January 2015 at the GWA Singapore campus.


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Correspondence to Hyejin Kim.

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Kim, H. The Rise of Transnational Education Corporations in the Asia Pacific. Asia-Pacific Edu Res 25, 279–286 (2016).

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  • International schools
  • For-profit education
  • Edu-business
  • Education management
  • Global networks of schools