The OECD’s Educational Agendas – Framed from Above, Fed from Below, Determined in Interaction

A Study on the Recurrent Education Agenda

by Vera Centeno (Author)
©2017 Thesis 448 Pages


This book looks at the backstage of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s (OECD) educational agendas. By explaining the rise and fall of its first educational agenda – Recurrent Education – it explores the organisation’s institutional structures and functioning, as well as its decision-making processes. The volume brings together theoretical approaches and empirical findings to expound on the organisation’s three overlapping constitutive dimensions of actor, arena, and instrument. The study shows the significance of intertwined institutional and conceptual changes for educational agenda-setting and knowledge production within the organization. The author turns the focus from the diffusion/reception of international policies to their production, and analyses a large volume of internal documents across time (1960s–1980s).

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Abbreviations and Acronyms
  • List of Boxes, Figures and Tables
  • 1. Elaboration of the OECD’s Educational Agendas
  • 1.1 The OECD: Major Provider of International Knowledge and Complex IGO
  • 1.2 Three Interlocking Propositions for the Understanding of Agenda-Setting and Knowledge Production within the OECD
  • 1.2.1 Framed from Above
  • 1.2.2 Fed from Below
  • 1.2.3 Determined in Interaction
  • 1.3 RE: The OECD’s First Educational Agenda
  • 1.3.1 Origin, Development and Content
  • 1.3.2 Common Misconceptions
  • 1.3.3 The Impact and Success of the OECD’s RE Agenda
  • 1.4 Navigating through the Maze of Papers: Sources and Methods
  • 1.4.1 Contextualizing: An In-House Directed Perspective
  • 1.4.2 Preparation: Ongoing Data Collection and Open Analysis
  • 1.4.3 Map: The OECD’s Internal Documents and the Complementary Sources
  • 1.4.4 Route: Iterative and Interactive Analyses
  • 1.5 Layers and Structure of the Book
  • 1.5.1 Three Layers
  • 1.5.2 Seven Chapters
  • 2. Looking into the ‘Black Box’: Exploring Agenda-Setting and Knowledge Production
  • 2.1 Building Up: Educational Research and Initial Suggestions on the OECD’s Complexity
  • 2.2 Dimension 1: Actor – Capabilities for Autonomy and Influence
  • 2.2.1 The OECD Secretariat
  • 2.2.2 The OECD’s Profile and Working Methods
  • 2.2.3 The OECD’s Multilateral Analyses
  • 2.3 Dimension 2: Arena – Dynamics and Institutional Specificities
  • 2.3.1 The OECD as an Intergovernmental Place
  • 2.3.2 The OECD as an Institutional Setting
  • 2.4 Dimension 3: Instrument – Out-of-House Constellations and Motivations
  • 2.4.1 The OECD as an Interactive and Reactive Player
  • 2.4.2 The OECD as an Instrumental Player
  • 2.5 Zooming In: The Institutional, Conceptual and Policy Changes behind the Organizational Relocations of the Education Section
  • 2.5.1 International Changes, Internal Conditions and Institutional Challenges
  • 2.5.2 Repositioning Education: Illustration 1 – From Science to Social Affairs and Manpower
  • 2.5.3 Unexpected Conflicts – Illustration 2: From Educational to Social Activities?
  • 2.6 Magnifying: The Actors within the Actor, their Functional and Organizational Relationships
  • 2.6.1 The Relationship between the Secretariat and the CSTP/EDC
  • 2.6.2 The Relationship between the CTPS/EDC and the CERI
  • 2.6.3 The Relationship between the CERI-GB and the Secretariat
  • 2.6.4 The Relationship between the Secretariat and the OECD experts
  • 2.6.5 The Relationship between the Secretariat and the SG
  • 2.7 Backstage: The Production of Documents in the Education Section
  • 2.7.1 Policy Papers under the Auspices of the Educational Committee: Easy-to-Frame Problems, Difficult-to-Frame Solutions
  • How Did the Secretariat Write the Papers?
  • What Alterations Did the Secretariat Make as a Result of Criticism from the CSTP?
  • How did the CSTP/EDC Directly Revise the Papers? In the End, Who Decides What under the CSTP/EDC?
  • 2.7.2 Ideational Changes under the Auspices of the CERI: The Free Zone
  • The ‘Legitimation Loop’: Legitimating Projects through the Institutional Web
  • Pushing Unwelcome Projects: The Role of ‘Feasibility Work’
  • Framing ‘Institutional Subjectivity’: The Uniqueness of the CERI within the OECD, and of the OECD in the International Arena
  • Compromise, Concession, Compliance
  • 2.8 Conclusion: The OECD’s Three Overlapping Constitutive Dimensions and the Importance of Intertwined Institutional and Conceptual Changes
  • 3. The Emergence of RE within the OECD
  • 3.1 From a Single to a Twin Structure: The CERI and the Reform of the Education Section
  • 3.1.1 The Creation of the CERI: Overcoming the Shortcomings of the Official Committee
  • 3.1.2 Unexpected Institutional Dynamics, Struggles and Strategies: The Rise of a Policy Committee
  • 3.1.3 The CERI at the Council’s Table: Cross-National Divergences and Convergences
  • 3.1.4 A Renewed Education Section: Fundamental Changes, New Arrangements, Old Tensions
  • 3.2 From Educational Expansion to Alternative Futures: RE and the Reform of the Educational System
  • 3.2.1 The Big Picture: The Swedish and the OECD’s Synergetic Agendas
  • 3.2.2 Educational Expansion and Equality of Educational Opportunity: What Are the Problems and the Solutions Addressed?
  • 3.2.3 From Democratization and Modernization to Alternative Futures: The Changing Programme of the CERI
  • The Initial Programme: A Compromise between Social and Economic Issues or Between Internal and External Views?
  • The Programme Put into Practice: Work and Dynamics Go by the Book
  • A Sudden Shift: A Programme at the Mercy of its Institutional Environment?
  • 3.2.4 RE: The Total System Reform Approach
  • 3.3 Conclusion: Interlinking In-House and Out-of-House Ideas and Interests
  • 4. The Crystallization of the RE Idea
  • 4.1 Deciphering the Reform Idea
  • 4.1.1 What Was RE Not About?
  • 4.1.2 Acting on SE Targeting Changes in Casual Domains?
  • Interpretive Frame: The Equality of Educational Opportunity Principle
  • Proposals: The Interplay between Formal Education and Work, and the Credit System
  • 4.2 Imagining the OECD’s Educational Action
  • 4.2.1 Different Semantic Resources, Different Solutions, Same Reform Idea
  • 4.2.2 Different Structural Problems, Different Interests, Same Technical Resource
  • 4.3 The Strategy Group and the Feasibility Study on Recurrent Education
  • 4.3.1 Setting a Strategy Group, Legitimating RE
  • 4.3.2 RE as AE or SE? Both? Neither?
  • 4.3.3 The ‘Feasibility Study’: Concretization under Cooperation
  • 4.4 The OECD’s First Stance on Education: The RE Idea Enters into the International Debate
  • 4.4.1 The 1970 Conference on Policies for Educational Growth
  • 4.4.2 The 1970 International Year of Education and the International Educational Scene
  • 4.4.3 The First Report on RE
  • 4.5 Conclusion: Assembling Existing Work, Embodying the New Horizontal Approach, ‘Stirring Up’ Domestic Interest, Establishing Interpretations
  • 5. The Formulation of the RE Policy Idea
  • 5.1 The Need for a ‘Clean Conception’
  • 5.1.1 Divergences within the Organizational Consensus…
  • 5.1.2 … the Echo of External Understandings?
  • 5.2 Merging ‘Theorization’ and Diffusion: The Adopter Becomes the Author and the Providers Become the Adopters
  • 5.2.1 Reframing Existing Practices: How do Plural Programmes Become RE Provisions?
  • The Feasibility Studies: Intentions and Accomplishments
  • Information, Inspirations and Interests
  • The Conceptualization of Situated Practices and Processes
  • 5.2.2 Framing Adopters: How do Lenders Become Borrowers?
  • A ‘Legitimated Collective Theorization’
  • The CERI/OECD ‘Country Studies’
  • 5.3 The OECD’s First Education Policy: The Interesting but Unaccepted RE Policy
  • 5.3.1 From Feasibility to the Policy Implications: Clarification, Contestation, Compatibility
  • 5.3.2 1973: The (Symbolic) International Year of RE
  • 5.3.3 The Clarifying Report on RE
  • 5.4 Conclusion: Positioning the CERI, Responding to Internal-External Imperatives, Appropriating Domestic Developments, Creating Placeless Views
  • 6. The Realization, Reformulation and Renouncement of the RE Frame
  • 6.1 The OECD’s First Political Apogee in Education
  • 6.1.1 Educational Priorities: the tacit agreement on RE
  • 6.1.2 Institutional Priorities: RE within the Wider Picture
  • 6.1.3 International Priorities: The 1975 Policy Report and Conference
  • 6.2 The OECD’s (First) Political Retraction
  • 6.2.1 Institutional Patterns: Crisis Equals Organizational Relinquishment and Multilateral Empowerment
  • New Organizational Arrangements: The Review of the OECD’s Activities
  • Similar Dynamics across Time: Tensions and Contestation
  • Decisions at the OECD Council’s Table: The Finances of the OECD’s Activities
  • Changing Geometries of Action: The Empowerment of the Institutional Bodies
  • 6.2.2 Conceptual Readjustments: Refocusing on Applicable Ideas
  • From ‘Alternative Futures’ to ‘Innovation Themes’: The Ongoing Changing Programme of the CERI
  • Reimagining the OECD’s Educational Action
  • 6.2.3 International Standby: Refraining from Publications
  • The Implementation Actions: Intentions and Accomplishments
  • The Unmanageable Collective Practice and the Unpublished 1977 Conference Proceedings
  • The Unpublished 1979 Report on RE
  • 6.3 The OECD’s (First) Disenchantment in Education
  • 6.3.1 The Piecemeal Approach: What Has RE Become About?
  • The Involvement of Countries: From Policy Abstraction to Policy Implementation
  • The Assemblage of Nationally Driven Issues under the Label of RE: From Schooling to AE
  • 6.3.2 The Last Report on RE: Mirroring Synergetic Agendas, Internal and International Collaborations
  • New and Old Synergetic Agendas
  • Internal and International Collaborations
  • 6.4 Conclusion: Priorities and Patterns, Re-assemblages and Re-adjustments
  • 7. The Recurrent Education Agenda
  • 7.1 Framed from Above: An Agenda without Consequences?
  • 7.2 Fed from Below: Self-Evidently Transnational?
  • 7.3 Determined in Interaction: The Fruit of a Monolithic IGO?
  • 7.4 Final Comments, New Beginnings
  • References
  • Archives
  • The OECD documents
  • Literature
  • Appendices
  • Appendix 1.1: The OECD member countries by year of ratification of the convention and in alphabetical order
  • Appendix 1.2: The OECD in Its Own Words
  • Appendix 1.3: List of Informal Interviews
  • Appendix 3.1: Relevant Actors in the OECD Education Section (1968–1970)
  • Appendix 3.2: Relevant Actors in the OECD Education Section (1971–1974)
  • Appendix 3.3: Conceptual Cloud Map I – Equality and Training in Secondary Education (early 1960s)
  • Appendix 3.4: Conceptual Cloud Map II – Recurrent Education: The Total System Reform Approach (late 1960s)
  • Appendix 4.1: Country Replies to the CERI Questionnaire about Current and Future Activities (1971)
  • Appendix 4.2: Timeline: Events and Papers (1960–70)
  • Appendix 6.1: RE-related Activities Across Time and Policy Levels (1961–86)

← 14 | 15 →


In reflecting on the making of this book, I realize that it has been a long journey, one that has bridged continents and fields of research, people and ideas. It would not have been possible at all without the support, friendship and care of colleagues, friends and family. As someone once said, ‘it takes a community to build a thesis’, and this book is by and large my doctoral thesis. The corollary is that it took a community to make this book.

My ‘academic acknowledgements’ reflect the itinerary of my doctoral journey. First, Berlin, the point of departure. I would like to thank my supervisor, Jürgen Schriewer, for having provided me with a rich conceptual environment and valuable working conditions at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. I appreciate his insights and suggestions, as well as his productive criticism. Warm thanks go to Anja Jakobi, who acted as external examiner on my PhD examination board, for her constructive criticism and helpful suggestions. My doctoral research was financed for the most part by a PhD scholarship awarded by the Portuguese Foundation for Research and Technology (FCT, SFRH/BD/27356/2006) under the Portuguese QREN-POPH programme, which was jointly financed by the Ministry for Culture, Technology and Higher Education and the European Union. Second, São Paulo, a digression. I am grateful to Denice Catani, who welcomed me at the Universidade de São Paulo, when I was exploring a new research theme, after suddenly having to abandon my first research project. I still warmly recall her friendship and assistance. Third, Ontario, the foundational step. I am thankful to Karen Mundy, who was the first to say, ‘Recurrent education? That’s a good theme!’ Karen encouraged and supported my research stay at the University of Toronto in the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, letting me find my way without pushing me to strictly follow – my own – research plan. Before, during and after my research stay, Karen was always accessible and positive. The Government of Canada funded this research stay through a doctoral student research award (Canadian Studies Programs). Fourth, Paris, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Unable to thank him personally, I express here my deepest gratitude to the late Jarl Bengtsson, a man whose commitment to his profession shone from his eyes when talking about (recurrent) education. He was one of my interviewees. I take the liberty of breaking an important academic rule by disclosing his name, although revealing neither what he said nor his interview number. I feel comfortable in doing this because I know he was not concerned about his anonymity: this criterion was ← 15 | 16 → mine rather than his. In his interview, Bengtsson directed me to important documents and developments within the OECD. Thanks also go to the OECD Archives staff, particularly to Karin Atkinson, for her readiness in trying to find the documents I needed, even once I was in Berlin. Fifth, Tampere, the University of Tampere. I appreciate the support of the Faculty of Education in the publication of this book. Sixth, Lisbon, a return to the basis. I should like to give my thanks and appreciation to António Nóvoa. I have had the privilege of working with A. Nóvoa at the beginning of my university studies. For more than fifteen years he has been present and available on each rung of the ladder, providing me either with concrete help and advice, or simply with time and friendly support. For this I am profoundly grateful: obrigada, Professor Nóvoa.

I want to thank my colleagues for making this journey enjoyable and formative. I am grateful to Patrick Ressler and Stavros Moutsios for reading the first drafts of some chapters. I thank Florian Waldow for a friendly welcome first in ‘his office’, when I arrived at the Humboldt, and second in ‘his centre’, when I was finishing my thesis, as well as during the preparation of this book. I also thank him for his thoughts and advice. I appreciate the commitment of Elizabeth Stone at Bourchier in revising this book, despite time constraints and changing schedules. I am thankful for the warm company and words of Barbara Schulte, Cristina Alarcón, Fanny Oehme, Katheleen Falkenberg, Nadine Bernhard, Pedro Pineda, Simone Holzwarth, Susanne Ress and Verónica Oeslner. I am grateful to my PhD colleague Florian Kiuppis for his humour, collegiality and interest in exchange and contestation of ideas. In the post-doctoral phase, my thanks go particularly to Jaakko Kauko for his understanding of my squeezing the book into our already tight working schedule. Last, but not least, I am extremely grateful to Martine Tarrieux. She was the face and the backbone of the previous Humboldtian Centre of Comparative Education. Without her, my journey would undoubtedly have been less enjoyable. Her personal and professional touch was decisive on numerous occasions: merci bien, Martine.

My deepest thanks and gratitude go to my family and friends. First and foremost, I am grateful to my parents, Célia and Luís Centeno, for their love and support regardless of the city, the country or the continent I had chosen to go to; for always ‘being there’, although not always sharing my choices; for simply being who they are. My appreciation also goes to my parents-in-law, Fanny and Raul Gorodski, for their constant encouragement and belief at the other end of each phone call. Among all friends, I should particularly like to thank Mónica Raleiras, for the long tertúlias – be it at 3.00 pm or 3.00 am – for the learning together, the personal understanding and the conceptual complicity: muito obrigada, Mónica. ← 16 | 17 →

A final word must go to someone who, literally, made this journey possible: my husband, Fabio Gorodski. When it occurred to me to leave behind a job, a city I had lived in for years and a country where I knew the language, to move to a country I had never visited, whose language was as unfamiliar to me as ancient Greek, to live on a still hypothetical scholarship, and to conduct yet unplanned research in a language I had not spoken since high school, he said, ‘Why not?’ When I invoked the obvious reasons, he said, ‘Of course you can!’ For the successive ‘Why not?’ and ‘Of course you can!’; for having read the major sociologists – and of course knowing much more about their work than I do – saying, ‘now I can read your thesis’; for being with me every step of the way; for all that cannot be measured in words, I dedicate this book to him, to Shraga, mon chez moi.

Berlin, August 2017

(Elul 5777)

Vera G. Centeno
University of Tampere ← 17 | 18 →

← 18 | 19 →

Abbreviations and Acronyms

← 20 | 21 →

List of Boxes, Figures and Tables

← 22 | 23 →

1.  Elaboration of the OECD’s Educational Agendas

Chapter 1 introduces the research. It presents the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as a knowledge producer and complex intergovernmental organization; it outlines the three interlocking propositions that underpin the research; and it introduces the recurrent education agenda. The chapter also describes the sources and methods of the study and provides an overview of the book chapters.

Historically, education was regularly the subject of cross-national curiosity that motivated government officials to embark on the most incredible journeys just to keep an eye on what others were doing or failing to do. Today, one could ironically say, they no longer need to travel: they have the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The OECD not only reviews countries’ educational developments and achievements but also compares them and determines which countries have the best practices and the best outcomes. Most importantly, it thereby identifies problems and prescribes solutions, constructing data that supports its own proposals. In brief, it provides common global frameworks.

Unsurprisingly, the OECD is therefore acknowledged in academic circles as a central node in transnational governance networks1 and a ‘central factor’ in the worldwide diffusion of educational norms.2 However, even if in the eyes of many scholars the OECD has ‘become established as a kind of éminence grise of the education policy of industrialized countries’,3 little is known about how educational issues are placed on its agenda, before the OECD in turn places them on the international agenda. In fact, despite the outstanding interest that the OECD’s educational proposals have aroused in the last two decades, little is written about how proposals are set within the organization. Despite the acknowledgement that the OECD’s agendas clearly convey knowledge that strongly shapes the perception and interpretation of concrete educational situations, how this educational knowledge is generated within the organization is something of a blind spot in the literature. This book contributes to filling this gap by analysing how and why, when and by whom, the recurrent education (RE) agenda was elaborated within the OECD. ← 23 | 24 →

RE is a particularly interesting case for studying the setting of educational agendas within the OECD since it bears both a historical and a conceptual relevance. RE has a two-fold historical significance: in the history of the OECD’s educational activities and in the history of adult and lifelong education (LLE). RE was the OECD’s first educational agenda. Since then the organization has been formally and officially involved in education policy. In the early 1970s, RE put the OECD in the spotlight of the international educational field. On the other hand, the OECD put RE into the annals of the history of (adult) education. RE was a turning point in the political problematization of education across the lifespan. Contrary to the existing conceptions, RE not only advanced an educational perspective or ambition but also proposed concrete educational reforms. Under the ‘portmanteau label of RE’,4 a ‘set of financial, organizational, administrative, didactic and legal procedures was defined for the fostering of a systematic education across the lifespan’.5 RE introduced major discontinuities in how education was problematized internationally, strongly contributing to lifelong learning (LLL) policies.6 However, despite its historic significance in an understanding of both the beginning of the OECD’s educational activities and the development of a LLL norm,7 RE remains understudied.

This book thus examines a previously neglected educational agenda: it explains the rise and fall of the RE agenda within the OECD. However, the main conceptual effort is to contribute to a deeper understanding of the circulation of educational knowledge – that is, its production, reproduction, transformation and renewal – between the international and the national/subnational heuristic scales. In focusing on what takes place within a major international ‘knowledge bank’,8 the book provides a more textured understanding of how educational knowledge is generated on an international scale. Although it covers a time period during which global educational discourses were not yet a central dimension in education policy-making, the study shows that looking into the backstage of the OECD’s educational agenda at that precise moment in time is highly instructive because the defining features of ‘global educational processes’9 were visibly emerging at that time in the OECD world.10 ← 24 | 25 →

In the middle run, the three propositions put forward in this book should inspire scholars to look at the circulation of educational knowledge through renewed analytical lenses, and enable research to conceptualize and expand them through further case studies. Even though scholarship accepts and foresees iterative and reciprocal links between the international and the domestic scales, there seems to be a tacit understanding that educational knowledge is mostly developed and disseminated on the international scale, and subsequently adopted or adapted, redefined or rejected, on the domestic scale. However, a nuanced analysis of the elaboration of the OECD’s RE agenda brings a new light to this issue. In the OECD, the production of educational knowledge is contingent on the elaboration of educational agendas. These follow the same developmental path within the organization. It is therefore necessary to grasp how agendas are set in order to understand how and which knowledge is produced by the OECD.

Looking behind the scenes of the elaboration of the OECD’s RE agenda, the book demonstrates that this agenda was framed from above. Corroborating existing assumptions, it shows that the secretariat of the education section set the educational narrative within which situations were transformed into problems; abstract notions were realized as solutions; relations and causes between and among educational and non-educational issues were established; and, thereby, a perceived coherent frame of reference was established. This frame established which ideas were discussed within the OECD and how.

Nevertheless, the book argues that the RE agenda was fed from below. The formulation of the RE agenda was accomplished by accommodating domestic interests and ideas, as well as existing practices, policies and processes, within the established educational narrative. This domestically generated knowledge was reframed within that interpretative narrative: it was decontextualized and recontextualized. This situated knowledge was the material of the OECD proposals. The domestic developments laid down how the ideas were argued for, and they informed and inspired the Secretariat. The RE agenda was anchored in domestic specifics. ← 25 | 26 →

While the who, what and how of the RE policy idea can be explained simply, it is more difficult to elucidate the why, when and where. The book shows that the course of the RE agenda was determined in interaction: it was the result of a differentiated and open-ended rather than a sequential or single-minded process; it was the outcome of multiple context-dependent interactions. The elaboration of the RE agenda was contingent on changing constellations, which encompassed in- and out-of-house dynamics that had frequently little to do with educational concerns.

In understanding how agendas are elaborated and knowledge produced within the OECD, it is essential to take a look at the institutional inner life of the organization. However, little is known about how the OECD really operates, about how it produces its analyses, about ‘its internal workings, the way staff organized the organization, and how members influence agendas and outcomes’.11 Furthermore, particularly concerning education, although some studies have hinted at the functioning of the OECD’s education section, their findings have neither been systematized nor pursued further, which probably explains the apparent lack of awareness about them in current research about the organization.

In looking behind the scenes of the OECD’s RE agenda, on the one hand, this book thus assumes the task of systematizing as much information as possible concerning actors, working procedures, and institutional and conceptual changes. These issues cut across different research fields. Therefore, although located conceptually in the field of comparative education and empirically in the field of adult education (AE), the study also contributes to some degree to research in fields such as international relations (IR), and policy and organizational studies. Regardless of its concrete focus, research on international organizations (IOs) is inevitably nested in the intersection of these fields of research.

On the other hand, it engages in building on existing literature, rather than in developing a new rootless terminology. It brings together different findings and conceptual tools from the vantage point of its complementarity to the analysis of agenda-setting and knowledge production within the OECD. As Anja Jakobi has clearly pointed out,12 the study of global politics might be effectively conceptualized with tools applied in domestic politics. The analytical tools used in the analysis of domestic and international policy-making, and in the diffusion and reception of educational knowledge, might be successfully used to explain what happens within the OECD, as internal processes display features analogous to domestic processes. ← 26 | 27 →

This book results from my PhD thesis. Following the German tradition, the doctoral dissertation must be made available to an academic audience after the doctoral examination without major changes. Therefore this book presents the dissertation I defended at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin in December 2014, with the exception of the changes suggested by the referees and defence committee, and the updating of general information and literature. It covers the development of the OECD’s education section since its inception in the 1960s to the mid-1980s, providing insights into the least-known though critical period of the OECD’s involvement in education. It was at this moment that the organization officially became involved in education policy-making, and that the institutional conditions for the establishment of semiautonomous bodies, such as the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) and later the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), took shape. These developments laid the path for the OECD’s current educational activities.

The main sources for the research are unpublished internal documents from the OECD, which were written or considered within the working scope of the Education Committee (EDC) and the CERI, from the 1960s to the 1980s (exact dates vary according to each subpopulation of documents). The study also benefited from four complementary sources of information: three primary sources (interview notes, documents from national archives and the resolutions/reports of the Standing Conference of European Ministers of Education), and one secondary source (individual publications of members of the OECD’s staff). The study applied an in-depth qualitative content analysis to the main sources, and a guided qualitative content analysis to the complementary sources.

This introductory chapter is organized as follows. Section 1.1 briefly introduces the OECD as major provider of international knowledge, while Section 1.2 presents the conceptual background of the study and its three central propositions. Section 1.3 describes the common perceptions about RE and their shortfalls, while Section 1.4 explains the research methodology. Section 1.5 closes the chapter by summing up the three research layers and presenting the structure of the book.

1.1  The OECD: Major Provider of International Knowledge and Complex IGO

In 1961 the OECD replaced the Organization for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC). The latter was established to coordinate the European Recovery Plan supported by Canada and the United States (USA) under the Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Europe in 1948. The OECD was envisaged as the ← 27 | 28 → economic counterpart of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The OECD’s task, like that of its predecessor, was to promote economic growth and employment in member countries by assuring a market economy and financial stability.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (May)
International Organizations Public Policies Adult Education History of Education Organizational Studies Multilateralism
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2017. 448 pp., 7 fig. b/w, 10 tables, 1 graph

Biographical notes

Vera Centeno (Author)

Vera Gorodski Centeno is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Tampere, Finland. Her research focuses on comparative and international education, multilateralism, quality assurance and evaluation, and adult education. She has conducted research in and about Brazil, Canada, France and Portugal.


Title: The OECD’s Educational Agendas – Framed from Above, Fed from Below, Determined in Interaction
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450 pages