Human Rights and Human Capital Discourse in National Education Reforms, 1960-2018

National governments rely on human rights and human capital rationales to justify why they seek to improve education through reform. Human rights discourse emphasizes a legal and moral right to education, whereas human capital discourse stresses the instrumental role of education in enhancing individual and national economic productivity. In contrast with arguments that view human rights and human capital as conflicting or competing philosophies, this paper considers the extent to which countries adopt both types of discourse in education reform in the same year, using a cross-national and longitudinal dataset of education reforms from 1960 to 2018. I demonstrate that human rights and human capital reform discourse both expand globally over time. I also argue that countries with human rights discourse are more likely to adopt human capital discourse in their national education reforms in the same year and vice versa, proposing they are not as contradictory as perceived.