INTRODUCTION As the largest international financial contributor to education, the World Bank has been at the forefront of international development for more than 70 years. It has a member base of 188 countries who are responsible for management decisions regarding financial lending and policy making (World Bank Group, 2015). With its substantial funding capacity, knowledge base and global reach, the Bank has “a near monopoly on the business of development” (Marshall, 2008). According to recent World Bank data, as of 2013, US$9 billion has been invested in 71 countries (2015). In regards to education assistance, the number of children out of school has almost halved in the last decade with completion rates of basic education increasing to almost 90% as of 2011.
The World Bank works on the assumption of economic growth and competitive advantage as a direct result of investment in “human capital”. The Bank has been accused of a heavy focus on the economic outcomes of education, as education is to prepare students to “compete effectively in dynamic global markets” (Menashy, 2007). Menashy (2007) points out that the Bank's underlying neo-liberal views ignore social benefits of education such as tolerance, global citizenship or democracy. Neo-liberalization is further highlighted throughout the Bank's documents invoked through the business language. In education, or more broadly known as the knowledge economy, educational outcomes are increasing becoming synonymous with high productivity, cost effectiveness and rate of return.
Despite the World Bank's significant successes, it has also contributed to a number of development failures, particularly in regards to it's “recipe” to reform global education systems. One key aspect of reform is the devolution of decision making to the community, or decentralization which has become a “fashionable” buzz word in the international policy field and a major component of loan conditions imposed by the Bank on borrowing countries. While international organizations argue it makes countries more democratic, efficient and effective, the policy has caused governments to become weakened and many developing nations have struggled to implement these policies effectively. In the context of global economic changes, the article argues that the World Bank's neo-liberal policies have caught developing nations 'between a rock and a hard place' by pressuring poorer countries to decentralize.
Completed as a part of coursework for Globalization and Leadership, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne.
Master of Education Policy (International), The University of Melbourne.