Educational Leaders: Do you know where your policies come from at the global and international level? by @DrCWebbBAPhD #SLTChat

Woman holding earth front of blackboard

Global and International Education Policy Bodies, Makers & Documents: A Brief Overview & Starting Points for Further Research for Educational Leaders

Webb, C. (2017).

“Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. One man thinks himself the master of others, but remains more of a slave than they are” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

As a leader in education, do you know where you’re coming from? What about the policies you have to adopt and implement in your local setting? Where do they come from and what is their value? Are they really all they are cracked up to be or have you been duped? As a current or aspiring educational leader and manager, it’s not only important to know about and understand policies in order to implement them, but it’s also important to retain a critical view of where they originated and how they came to be adopted by international, national, and regional/local decision makers. After reading some of the critical sources and reviews available, it’s not difficult to see yourself at one extreme as a pawn in a global economic game of education policy persuasion and salesmanship. Nevertheless, the context you work in may still require you to navigate and selectively, rationally, implement aspects of some policy, and give you leeway to perhaps not adopt others, or perhaps to do so creatively in line with the vision of your own school and in harmony with your values. Below is a collection of insightful “thunks” taken as quotes from an exceptional paper by Verger:

Verger, A. (2014),  Current  Issues  in  Comparative  Education,  Teachers  College,  Columbia  University.  Current Issues in Comparative Education 16 (2), 14-­‐‑29. Accessed from the internet at

Verger asserts that “Taking ideas more seriously implies having to pay more attention to the carriers of these ideas, and tracking the policy networks they constitute (cf. Ball, 2012; Vavrus & Bartlett, 2009). It also implies having a better understanding of how policy entrepreneurs introduce new policy ideas in global education agendas, and frame and disseminate them across different fields, organizations, and regions (cf. Grek et al., 2009; Verger, 2012). It also requires us to have in-depth knowledge of the particular contexts in which these ideas are being adopted, as a way to capture how multiple contextual contingencies operate in a strategically selective way by favoring certain actors, ideas, and discourses over others (cf. Hay, 2002)” (Verger 2014).

Global – what is going on among the key players at global level in reference to policy making, decision making and policy adoption?

Theoretical starting points and key issues as suggested by Verger:

–          World Society Theory: “argues that the ‘education institution’, as we know it, has spread around the world as part of the diffusion of a culturally embedded model of the modern nation-state. According to this theory, a range of common education policies (but also health, fiscal policies, etc.) have been adopted around the planet as the result of both the international dissemination of the values of western modernity as well as the legitimation pressures that governments receiveespecially in postcolonial settings – to demonstrate to the international community that they are building a ‘modern state’” (Meyer et al., 1997 – in Verger 2014).

–          Globally Structured Education Agenda (GSEA): “the GSEA sees the world capitalist economy as the driving force of globalisation and as the main causal source of the profound transformations manifested in the education arena today (Dale, 2000). This approach stresses that most significant educational changes we witness today should be understood as being embedded within interdependent local, national and global political economy complexes. International financial organizations are key agents in this multi-scalar scenario due to their agenda setting capacities; among other things, they define what the main problems are that member-states should address if they want to successfully integrate into an increasingly globalized and competitive knowledge-economy” (Verger 2014).

–          Micro case studies: highlight “divergence that prevails in global education policy processes”, and show that “global policy ideas are constantly and actively reinterpreted and modified by a range of political actors that operate at a range of scales – including the national and the local – according to their own symbolic frames and institutional settings” (Verger 2014).

–          Reasons why countries adopt global policies: “It is well documented that many countries – especially developing countries – adopt global policies and programs because they are externally imposed on them via aid conditionality or binding international agreements. However, more and more often, policy-makers adopt global policies in an apparently voluntary way (Dale, 2005). When this happens, dynamics of persuasion, discursive selectivity, and generation of meaning become more central as factors of policy change” (Verger 2014).

–          The trend of educational privatization in developing countries:

o   “In developing countries, the prevailing developmental paradigm, the so-called Post-Washington Consensus, is especially conducive to privatization measures, as it encourages governments to explore non-bureaucratic ways of coordinating economic and social activities and to create an environment that favors the private sector acquiring a more dynamic role in economic and societal issues (Van Waeyenberge, 2006),” (Verger 2014).

o   “neoliberalism and related policy discourses have become hegemonic, and form a sort of commonsensical global framework, contributes to the belief in many countries of the world of the inherent superiority of the private sector, or the goodness of performance-based incentives and choice shaping the parameters of education reforms (Carney, 2009; Taylor et al., 2000),” (Verger 2014).

–          Rationalist policy adoption: “In terms of policy adoption, rationalism would expect local policy-makers to select certain global policies because such policies work or have worked well elsewhere. Thus, policymakers would be construed as well-informed rational actors that choose internationally tested policy solutions to improve the outcomes of their education systems” but “rational choice or methodological individualism are far from being dominant approaches” (Verger 2014).

–          The role of persuasion: “In comparative and international education studies, some scholars are focusing on the dynamics of promotion of, and persuasion regarding, global policy ideas  (Grek et al., 2009; Ball, 2012; Resnik, 2012; Olmedo, 2013). Many of them focus on how a range of international organizations, knowledge brokers, and policy entrepreneurs try to convince governments of what are the key problems that they need to address and the most effective policy solutions (Steiner-Khamsi, 2012a). Researchers in this specific area observe that global policy ideas do not necessarily become influential because of their inherent quality and rigor, but because of the promotional and framing strategies of the experts backing them (Verger, 2012). In fact, many policy entrepreneurs predispose policy-makers to consider their proposals by making them look like they are scientifically supported, or aligned with ‘international good practices’ and ‘international standards’ (Edwards Jr., 2013)” (Verger 2014).

–          Large organisations carrying higher persuasive weight: “To most constructivists, the symbolic and economic capitals of the organizations backing new policy ideas impact significantly on the social perception and credibility of these ideas. It is noteworthy that the most successful policy entrepreneurs are usually based in international organizations, such as the World Bank or the OECD, that are located at the interstices of a range of influential policy networks. These organizations provide them with sufficient resources to package and disseminate their ideas effectively as well as the channels to directly access key policy-makers in their member-states (Campbell, 2004)” (Verger 2014).

–          Perception of decision makers: “constructivists assume, counter to the rationalist assumption, that policy-makers do not have perfect information when making their policy choices and that, in fact, their knowledge on education policy matters is likely to be impressionistic and incomplete (Hay, 2001). In general, according to them, global policies are not widely adopted because they are the best (or even a good) choice, but because they are perceived as such by key decision-makers” (Verger 2014).

–          Sophisticated policy salesmanship: Campbell’s (2004) “work theorizes on how different types of ideas, such as policy paradigms, programs, frames, and public sentiments, which interpellate to very different domains of reality (the micro and the macro, the normative and the policy-oriented), interact in processes of institutional change. Paraphrasing him, new policy proposals will be more likely to penetrate education systems if entrepreneurs can present them in a way that appears to translate well into the prevailing national or regional regulatory framework and policy paradigm, and into the normative sentiments of decision-makers and key stakeholders” (Verger 2014).

–          Complex decisive processes involved in education privatization reforms: assess any educational setting in the context and against national and/or regional government ideology, administrative and regulatory viability, political institutions, domestic political contention, and periods of crises (Verger 2014). See Verger’s full article to find examples of how to do this.

If, like me, you read the above points and felt the need to re-empower yourself to see how we may be being manipulated by global economic forces, you will need to do more digging to see how relevant international policy making bodies work, and what they have decided that then filters down into practice in your own school setting. Below is a list of the most influential international policy making bodies with links to find out more.


UNESCO and the International Institute for Educational Planning. UNESCO in particular advocates for universal ideals and human rights in the underpinning values of their education publications and programmes, e.g. through the EFA (Education for All) Goals. See in particular and

OECD – see e.g.

The World Bank – see e.g. and World Development Report 2018 at

The UN (see specifically millennium development goals focused on education, as well as UN statistics pertaining to education in general) – another starting point is to go to the UN iLibrary and search on ‘education’ at

The WTO (World Trade Organisation) – e.g. see education specific documents in the WTO online document library

The SOROS Foundation –  see e.g.

Save the Children – see e.g.

Global Partnership for Education, and the Fast Track Initiative – see

The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement – see


European Standards – see a range of starting points, including:

After you have researched and analysed the above policy making bodies and initiatives, you will need to cross reference your findings with major legislation and national and international constitutions that have impact in your own country, region, locality and setting, to see how the international and global policies have been interwoven, adapted and domesticated. It would then be useful to explain their impact and what kind of leadership their implementation and adoption may require in your own setting. An easy starting point for that would be your own country’s department for education, relevant inspection bodies, brought together with school improvement plans and vision/mission statements. Consider the political ideologies that underpin all of the above and how political changes can cause a shift in policy and leadership required.


Adrião, T., Garcia, T., Borghi, R., & Arelaro, L. (2009). Uma Modalidade Peculiar de Privatizacão Da Educacão Pública: a Aquisicão de‘ Sistemas de Ensino’ Por Municípios Paulistas. Educacão & Sociedade, 30(108), 799–818.

Atasay, E., & Delavan, G. (2012). Monumentalizing disaster and wreak-construction: a case study of Haiti to rethink the privatization of public education. Journal of Education Policy 27(4), 529-553.

Ball, S. J. (2012). Global Education Inc.: New Policy Networks and the Neoliberal Imaginary. NY: Routledge.

Buras, K. L. (2013). ‘We’re not going nowhere’: race, urban space, and the struggle for King Elementary School in New Orleans. Critical Studies in Education 54(1), 19-32.

Campbell, J. L. (2004). Institutional Change and Globalisation. Princeton: Princeton UP.

Carney, S. (2009), Negotiating Policy in an Age of Globalisation: Exploring Educational “Policyscapes” in Denmark, Nepal, and China. Comparative Education Review, 53, (1), 63-88.

Dale, R. (2000). Globalisation and Education: Demonstrating a “common world educational culture” or locating a “globally structured educational agenda”’? Educational Theory, 50(4), 427-448.

Dale, R. (2005). Globalisation, knowledge economy and comparative education. Comparative Education, 41, (2), 117-149.

Edwards Jr, D. B. (2013). International Processes of Education Policy Formation: An Analytic Framework and the Case of Plan 2021 in El Salvador. Comparative Education Review 57 (1), 22–53.

Grek, S., Lawn, M., Lingard, B., Ozga, J., Rinne, R., Segerholm, C., & Simola, H. (2009). National Policy Brokering and the Construction of the European Education Space in England, Sweden, Finland and Scotland. Comparative Education 45 (1), 5–21.

Hay, C. (2001). The “Crisis” of Keynesianism and the Rise of Neoliberalism in Britain: An Ideational Institutional Approach. In Campbell, J. L., and O. K. Pedersen (Eds.), The Rise of Neoliberalism and Institutional Analysis (pp. 193-218). Princeton University Press.

Ho, M. S. (2006). The Politics of Preschool Education Vouchers in Taiwan. Comparative Education Review, 50(1), 66-89.

Kjaer, P., & Pedersen, O.K. (2001). Translation liberalization: Neoliberalism in the Danish negotiated economy. In J. L. Campbell and O. K. Pedersen (Eds.), The Rise of Neoliberalism and Institutional Analysis (pp. 219-248). Princeton University Press.

Klitgaard, M. B. (2008). School Vouchers and the New Politics of the Welfare State. Governance, 21(4), 479–498.

Komatsu, T. (2013). Why do policy leaders adopt global education reforms? A political analysis of School Based Management reform adoption in post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 21(62)

Maroy, C. (2012). Towards Post-Bureaucratic Modes of Governance: A European Perspective. In G. Steiner-Khamsi and F. Waldow (Eds.). World Yearbook of Education 2012: Policy Borrowing and Lending in Education (pp. 62-79). NY: Routledge.

Meyer, J.W., Boli, J., Thomas, G.M. and Ramirez, F. O. (1997). World Society and the NationState. The American Journal of Sociology, 103(1), 144–181

Olmedo, A. (2013). Policy-makers, Market Advocates and Edu-businesses: New and Renewed Players in the Spanish Education Policy Arena. Journal of Education Policy, 28 (1), 55–76.

Resnik, J. (2012). The Transformation of Education Policy in Israel. In G. Steiner-Khamsi and F. Waldow (Eds.). World Yearbook of Education 2012: Policy Borrowing and Lending in Education (pp. 264-290). New York: Routledge.

Srivastava, P. (2010). Privatization and Education for All: Unravelling the mobilizing frames. Development. 53(4), 522–528.

Steiner-Khamsi, G. (2012a). For All by All? The World Bank’s Global Framework for Education. In S. J. Klees, J. Samoff & N.P. Stromquist. The World Bank and Education: Critiques and Alternatives (pp. 3-20). Rotterdam: Sense.

Taylor, S., & Henry, M. (2000). Globalisation and educational policymaking: A case study. Educational Theory, 50 (4), 487–503.

Van Waeyenberge, E. (2006). From Washington to post-Washington consensus. In B. Fine (Ed.) The New Development Economics: After the Washington Consensus (pp. 21–46). London: Zed Books.

Vavrus, F. K., & Bartlett, L. (2009). Critical approaches to comparative education. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Verger, A. (2012). Framing and selling global education policy: the promotion of PPPs in education in low-income countries. Journal of Education Policy, 27(1), 109–130.

Verger, A. (2014),  Current  Issues  in  Comparative  Education,  Teachers  College,  Columbia  University.  Current Issues in Comparative Education 16 (2), 14-­‐‑29. Accessed from the internet at on 17/11/17


Some other top papers to read and dig into on this topic include:

Burnett, M. (2014). International Education Policies, Issues, and Challenges, in International Development Policy, Issue 5, 2014. Accessed online at

Peterson, P., Baker, E., McGaw, B. (2010). International Encyclopedia of Education. Third Edition. Elsevier. Available via Science Direct at (login using Middlesex Uni / Athens account and click on article titles to see complete A-Z listing of all encyclopedia entries as individual PDF files.

Ridge, N., Kippels, S., Shami, S. (2016), “Economy, Business and First Class: The Implications of For-Profit Education Provision in the UAE”, Chapter 16 in “World Yearbook of Education 2016: The Global Education Industry”, by Verger, A., Lubienski, C, and Steiner-Khamsi, G. (2016), Routledge: Oxon.  Accessed from the internet at

Also of note in the same book (World Yearbook of Education 2016) is chapter 1: ‘The Emergence and Structuring of the Global Education Industry’, by Verger, A., Lubienski, C, and Steiner-Khamsi, G. – talks about the GEI (global education industry) being shaped by public policy making.

Steiner-Khamsi, G. (2004). The Global Politics of Educational Borrowing and Lending. Teachers College Press. Partial EBook available online at

Verger, A. (2014),  Current  Issues  in  Comparative  Education,  Teachers  College,  Columbia  University.  Current Issues in Comparative Education 16 (2), 14-­‐‑29. Accessed from the internet at

Winthrop, R. (2016). “US leadership in global education: The time is now”. Brookings. Accessed online at


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