Global Education Policy and International Development: New Agendas, Issues and Policies is a timely compendium of studies aimed at elucidating the specific social, historical, political, and economic conditions that have shaped global education policies (GEPs) in diverse contexts. Capitalizing on a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches, this edited volume calls on scholars interested in analyzing GEPs in a way that takes globalization “seriously” (p. 5) to transcend the common global-local binary, consider the agency of all stake-holders, and bring issues of power struggles and negotiations to the forefront of the analysis.

The theoretical and methodological commentaries in the introductory section offer an insider’s view of current scholarly debates in a field that is located at the intersection of globalization, international development, and education. In the first chapter, Antoni Verger, Mario Novelli, and Hülya Kosar Altinyelken identify the limitations of traditional approaches and provide a theoretical framework that addresses the effects of globalization on education and offers new understandings of the adoption, recontextualization, and implementation of GEPs. In the second chapter, Susan Robertson analyzes the promises and limitations of contemporary methodologies in this field and offers her insights on how to move them forward.

The second section of the book comprises case study chapters that each provide an in-depth analysis of particular GEPs in different national contexts. These analyses are particularly useful for debunking common myths that reify the “global/local binary” and obscure the role of power struggles between local actors in the creation and propagation of such education policies. There are two especially compelling examples in the volume in which the authors’ presentation of the case challenges traditional ways of thinking of bottom-up and top-down trajectories of educational policies. The first myth regards the establishment of the Education with Community Participation Program (EDUCO) in El Salvador, discussed by Brent Edwards and Steven Klees in chapter 3 and by Magriet Poppema in chapter 8; and the second pertains to the development of policies against racial inequality (e.g., affirmative action) in education in Brazil, examined by Renato Emerson dos Santos and Inti Soetirik in chapter 9.

EDUCO has long been presented by international agencies such as UNESCO as a laudable example of educational decentralization policy based on the history of five hundred independent schools initially started by rural communities during the Salvadoran civil war. In opposition to this dominant narrative, the analyses conducted by Edwards and Klees and Poppema demonstrate that EDUCO is not, in fact, a bottom-up policy but a government policy created with the support of local business elites, USAID, and the World Bank to regain the control of schools from civil organizations deemed “politically dangerous” by specific interest groups (pp. 274, 285). Since its inception, EDUCO has furthered a neoliberal agenda by increasing government control by setting the “rules of the game,” while undermining the role of the government in providing education, and limiting the association and labor rights of teachers. Additionally, EDUCO has placed the biggest burden on the poorest parents, who provide free labor that adds up to 805 full-time jobs and represents 28 percent of the work done by all the Ministry of Education staff (p. 172).

In contrast to the bottom-up myth of EDUCO, affirmative action policies in Brazil have been presented as the result of top-down influence. In the twentieth century, Brazil officially declared itself a “racial democracy.” In accordance with this ideology, policies intended to combat racism or racial inequality have been presented in Brazil as “the fruit of artificially copying or importing an agenda developed on the United States” (p. 181). Opponents of these policies have discredited them with the argument that they impose a structural understanding of racial relations that does not apply to a country where race does not make sense (p. 182). The analysis conducted by Renato Emerson dos Santos and Inti Soeterik defies this “imperialist import” explanation by highlighting the agency of the Brazilian Black Movement (BBM). Racial policies in Brazil, they argue, are not the product of outside agendas but of national historical struggles and the effective use of politics of scale, such as the BBM’s use of global events like the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001, to exert internal pressure.

These two chapters clearly exemplify many of the main points presented by Gita Steiner-Khamsi and Roger Dale in the concluding chapters. For Steiner-Khamsi, the study of GEPs is often limited to comparisons between early and late adopters of a policy that fail to consider the importance of policy design. According to her analysis, understanding the origins of a policy can bring light to the process through which GEPs end up becoming “nobody’s and everyone’s policy” (p. 275). For example, “EDUCO ceases to be associated only with neoliberal groups and is, for reasons utterly unrelated to its original context, selectively adopted by different political camps” (p. 276). The case studies of both Brazil and El Salvador also exemplify Dale’s conclusion that transnational educational projects cannot become a reality without the involvement of key domestic interests and without the opening of local spaces in which these projects can flourish.

As academics, advocates, and political leaders from across the world embark on a discussion of how to develop a set of sustainable development goals (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, n.d.), it is important to critically examine processes of development, expansion, and implementation of GEPs and their potential effects in diminishing or exacerbating inequities. Global Education Policy and International Development: New Agendas, Issues and Policies provides fundamental insights into the central issues that need to be considered by scholars, policy makers, and practitioners working in the intersecting fields of education and international development.

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for Sustainable Development. (n.d.)
Sustainable development goals
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