Global Determinants of Education Reform, 1960-2017

Starting after World War II and expanding especially through the 1990s, education experienced a period of massive globalization that generated a wave of reforms around the world. However, in the contemporary era the legitimacy of the liberal and neoliberal world order that supported globalized models of education is weakening, perhaps undercutting the prevalence of education reform. To shed light on how global changes are influencing education, we consider changes in the levels of education reform in 147 countries over the period 1960 to 2017. We use dynamic negative binomial panel regression models to examine the determinants of national education reform, focusing particularly on historical trends and the changing role of the World Bank and International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs). We find a sharp drop in levels of reform in recent decades, in line with arguments that globalized models of education are becoming less dominant. We also find evidence of changing power dynamics among prominent organizational actors in the global system. The influence of World Bank loans in promoting education reform declines over time, while the influence of INGOs grows. This suggests a changing system of governance, where formal coercive pressures, such as the loan conditionalities used by the World Bank, become less palatable, while the normative influences of civil society grow stronger. Overall, our findings show that education reform arises as a macro – global – process as much as a response to local needs and conditions.