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International organizations, educational development, and conflict: A (world) cultural perspective

  • Mike ZappEmail author
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Many analyses of globalized education have directed growing attention to a problematic local-global nexus, with a particular focus on international organizations (IOs) as coercive and normative governance actors that influence national educational policymaking. By contrast, this work stresses the cultural-cognitive dimension of IOs’ education work and their staff as highly rationalized, culturally bound educational theorists. This analysis of 26 documents from 16 IOs active in international education networks in the period 2000–2015 reveals a covert cultural conflict between IOs’ universalistic goals of educational equality and progress and the practices of ‘traditional culture’ that IOs have observed in the field. IOs perceive such culture as impeding the former’s educational development goals. Analysis further identifies IOs’ decoupling of their formal commitment to cultural diversity and local context from their actual practice of standardizing policy prescriptions. Such decoupling reflects tensions inherent in contemporary world culture and provides a novel perspective on IOs’ role in educational globalization.


International organizations Cultural conflict World culture Comparative and international education 



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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculté des Lettres, des Sciences Humaines, des Arts et des Sciences de l’EducationUniversité du LuxembourgEsch-sur-AlzetteLuxembourg

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