What’s in a Wave? The Content of Neoliberal Education Reforms, 1970–2018

This chapter presents empirical results of an analysis of the content of education reform globally in nine policy areas during the recent wave of neoliberal reforms between 1970 and 2018. It draws on data from the World Education Reform Database (WERD), the most comprehensive database to date of education reforms around the world. The results show a dramatic increase in policy reform discourse on improving educational quality compared to reforms in other policy areas between 1970 and 2018, with the pace accelerating from 1990 onwards. Expanding access to education remains an important priority. Access reform discourse slightly increases during the peak period of education reform from 1992 to 2009, before leveling off. The results also show a significant rise of reforms in policy areas related to accountability discourse. Overall, the descriptive trends presented in this chapter complement case study literature on neoliberal education reform and suggests directions further cross-national research.