Department of Culture and Learning

The global history of the OECD in Education

OECD Conference on Economic growth and Investment in Education, Brookings Institution, Washington, October 1961. Copyright: OECD


International Organisations frame and shape national education systems via comparisons, benchmarking and transnational ideas and policies. These developments have a significant impact on:

  • What is counted as valuable in education
  • Who is getting recognition in education systems
  • Who can access education

In order to give decision-makers across the globe the right tools to deal with and handle the challenges of education today and tomorrow, we therefore need to understand the workings of global education; i.e. the interactions between international, national and local levels of educational policy making.

Beginning as the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) in 1948, the OECD gradually took the leading role in shaping a global education space from other international organisations, culminating with the launch of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2000. For decades, the OECD has promoted a global vision of education as a source of human capital needed to deal with social challenges and improve the economies of nation-states.

Today, the OECD is widely recognised as the global trend-setter in education because of its educational measurement indicators, its production of norms, and its role in governance by comparison.

It is the purpose of this research project to understand the workings, mechanisms, range and impact of the OECD’s educational recommendations and programmes from a historical and comparative perspective cutting across both member- and non-member states.

The project brings together researchers from five continents and draws on interviews with key agents as well as archival sources collected in the OECD archive in Paris and the national archives of a number of selected case countries.



Primary investigator: Christian Ydesen
Phone: (+45) 29 72 44 81