The World Bank and the Global Governance of Social Policy: A Strategic-Relational Approach to the Education Case

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 8:45 AM
Room: F204
Oral Presentation
Antoni VERGER , Universitat AutÚnoma de Barcelona, Spain
Karen MUNDY , University of Toronto, Canada
The World Bank’s original mandate did not include education, but its involvement in education policy and reform has grown substantially since the 1960s. Today it is widely recognized as the most powerful and hegemonic of the international organizations operating in the education for development field. The Bank is the largest single international funder of education for development in low-income countries, and its technical and knowledge-based resources tower over those of other international institutions. This paper develops a global governance approach for understanding how the World Bank’s agenda and policy outcomes in the education field have been constructed and have evolved with the passage of time. According to such an approach, research on agenda settlement in international organizations (IOs) needs to focus on three main dynamic:  the political opportunities created by geo-political and ideological shifts among the most powerful member governments; the IO’s relationships with borrowing (or “client”) countries; and finally the internal dynamics and organizational culture of the IO’s own bureaucracy as it aims to reproduce itself and manage shifts in the previous two dynamics.

 The paper explores how these three dynamics interact in the constitution of the Bank’s educational agenda and policies in four key periods: from the 1960s to the beginning of the 1980s, when the debt crisis exploded in many developing nations; from 1981 to mid nineties, a period marked by structural adjustment lending; from the mid nineties to 2008, when the Post-Washington consensus emerged; and from 2008 to present, characterized by significant shifts in power in the world system and an accompanying rise of strategic uncertainty at different levels within the Bank.