The World Bank and the global governance of education in a changing world order

Karen Mundy, Antoni Verger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

80 Citations (Scopus)


© 2014 Elsevier Ltd. The World Bank's involvement in education policy and reform has grown substantially since the 1960s. For an organization that originally had no mandate to work on education, the Bank has become perhaps the most powerful and hegemonic of the international organizations operating in the education for development field. The Bank is the largest single international funder of education for development in low-income countries, and its technical and knowledge-based resources tower over those of other international institutions.This article develops a heuristic framework for understanding agenda-setting processes in international organizations (IOs), and applies it to analyze how the World Bank work in education has evolved with the passage of time. The framework focuses on three dynamics as keys to understanding the Bank and education: the political opportunities created by geo-political and ideological shifts among the most powerful member governments; the IOs relationships with borrowing (or "client") countries; and finally the internal dynamics and organizational culture of the IOs own bureaucracy as it aims to reproduce itself and manage shifts in the previous two dynamics. These three dynamics and their interaction are explored over four key periods: from the 1960s to the beginning of the 1980s, when the debt crisis exploded in many developing nations; from 1981 to mid-nineties, a period marked by structural adjustment lending and the reorganization of the Bank's education sector activities around basic education; from the mid-nineties to 2008, when the Post-Washington consensus emerged; and from 2008 to present, a period characterized by significant shifts in power in the world system and an accompanying rise of strategic uncertainty at different levels within the Bank.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-18
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Development
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • Agenda-setting
  • Education policy
  • Global governance
  • International organizations
  • World Bank


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