Data as the New Panacea: Trends in Global Education Reforms, 1970-2018

This paper investigates changes in the promissory visions articulated in education reforms around the world. We use topic modeling to analyze the content of 9,268 reforms from 215 countries during the period 1970 to 2018 using the World Education Reform Database. Our findings reveal a decline in traditional management-focused reforms and a rise in reforms related to data and information. Despite a sustained commitment to expanding education access, reforms framed in “rights” language diminish. We argue that the rise of data-centric reforms and the retreat from rights-based approaches may be connected, both reflecting and contributing to a broader erosion of the liberal world order.