Education Reform and Nation-State Organizational Expansion, 1960-2018

When reforming their education systems, countries often create ministries, agencies, or committees tasked with the mission of addressing issues of strategic priority. Not only has formal organization expanded dramatically, but these professionalized structures often seem to pave the way for all other types of education reform. This paper explores the cultural and structural factors predicting national-level education reforms dedicated to the creation of these new organizational structures. Drawing on 7,161 country-year observations from the World Education Reform Database, it examines two dimension of nation-state actorhood. First, it proposes an account of the organizational expansion of the nation-state as an act of conformity with a cultural model. Secondly, it posits that organizational expansion also serves the purpose of image building, conferring legitimacy to the nation-state before the media and civil society. Findings provide support for a neo-institutional model of nation-state actorhood. The adoption of reforms dedicated to the creation of new organizational structures in a given year is associated with an increased likelihood that a country will also engage in organizational expansion in the subsequent year. This model of the nation-state as a rationalized actor is weakened in the 2010s, following the fragmentation of the liberal order. Countries in which media and civil society are more empowered to disseminate information about the government are more likely to adopt reforms dedicated to the creation of new organizational structures.