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Language-education policies and international institutions: The World Bank’s vs. UNESCO’s global framework

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One of the grand claims of neoliberalism is that the free-market world is an ‘actor-free’ process, in which no one is in charge. The aim of this article is to problematize this claim by examining the agency of two international institutions, the World Bank and UNESCO, and the ways in which they shape global language-education policies. In light of the latest reports released by the two institutions, the findings of this study suggest that both institutions are key players in the realm of global policies. Their differences, however, recline in their orientations, motives, and power. Whereas the World Bank is a finance institution with ‘economic prosperity’ as its motto, and neoliberalism as the basis of its policies, UNESCO is an intellectual institution with peace as its mantra, and universal consensus and social inclusion as the basis of its policies. The impact of such differences is notable on the type of policies each institution advocates. Whereas the World Bank’s policies call for an alliance between language, education and economy as a means to eradicate poverty and achieve development, UNESCO’s policies call for multiculturalism, multilingualism, and pluralism in education as a means to promote intercultural and international dialogues as a strategy to safeguard peace. The former model is currently in vogue in education sectors worldwide. Its global domination, however, cannot be explained without taking into account the financial supremacy of the World Bank, the economic dependency of many world’s nations on the World Bank’s long-term developmental loans, and the many conditions set by the Bank for its loan distributions, which includes, among others, the implementation of its neoliberal-driven educational and linguistic policies.
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Keywords: The World Bank; UNESCO; global education frameworks; language-education policy; neoliberalism

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2014

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