World Bank Influence on Policy Formation in Education: A Systematic Review of the Literature

D. Brent Edwards, Alejandro Caravaca, Annie Rappeport, Vanessa R. Sperduti

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review


The World Bank has been called the most influential organization in education reform globally. Not only is it the single largest funder of education for international development, but it also produces knowledge, circulates discourse, and structures policymaking processes in ways that extend its influence far beyond its primary role as a bank. However, while much literature has been produced about the World Bank, the field of education lacks a systematic discussion of what has been reported about how the World Bank influences policy formation at the country level. Through the conduct of a theoretically informed systematic literature review of 70 publications, this article clarifies and provides examples for the numerous ways that the World Bank influences policy formation. In all, the article documents 11 pathways through which the World Bank influences policymaking. The article concludes by suggesting areas where research on the World Bank can be improved, namely, through more explicit attention to the theoretical and methodological approaches employed. The goal of this review is to encourage scholars to be more specific in their conceptualizations and discussions of World Bank influence, to go beyond general claims of policy imposition or agenda shaping.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-39
Number of pages39
JournalReview of Educational Research
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2023


  • World Bank
  • global governance
  • international organizations
  • policy formation
  • policymaking


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