Global Adult Education Policy, Agendas and Ideologies

Nurse educators often work in their own speciality areas of nursing and so I thought this post on global adult education may provide a brief overview on wider education policy, agendas and ideologies in the globalised world we now work in.


Global neoliberalism policies have been progressively applied either directly or indirectly to education systems, similar to economic policy with the aim to deregulate education systems (Moutsios, 2009). Human capital production enhancement through systems of education, improving the cost effectiveness of education, promoting ‘lifelong learning’ and the proliferation of indicator markers are some of the developments in globalization education ideologies (Walters, 2006). These provide a transnational education policy for prominent globalized organizations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), and adult education ideology has acquired a transnational voice by actors such as UNESCO (Milana, 2012). These actors have shifted the vocabulary from adult and continuing education to lifelong learning for the acquisition of marketable skills (Milana, 2012). Reports such as Lifelong Learning for all from OECD (1996) and UNESCO international commission on education and learning for the twenty first century have placed increasing substance on lifelong learning.  Lifelong learning is part of the relationship between education, work and socio-economic which is part of the globalized education ideology (Bond, 2001).

World Bank

Education from the World Bank (2011) perspective is seen as a “powerful driver of development and is one of the strongest instruments for reducing poverty and improving health, gender equality, peace, and stability”.  Education for the World Bank has consistent returns in terms of income and improves equality, and to do this their aim is raise low learning levels in the developing world. This ideology is prevalent throughout the World Bank education strategy plan for 2020.

Performance measurements, indicators and targets are prominent in World Bank policy. Measurements such as Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS) are exemplified by the World Bank as better predictors of economic growth than number of schooling years (World Bank, 2011). This economic and workforce philosophy is similar for adult education, where the emphasis is on work skills to increase employability and the knowledge economy (World Bank, 2015).

Education and financial support from the World Bank are linked to these concepts of human capital needs and the impacts on national policies are influenced through these financial agreements (Bond, 2001).  What this means, is the World Bank are influencing national policies and ideologies on education through economic support to create open market conditions.

International Monetary Fund

As the IMF has fiscal responsibility of international monetary markets, then education policy and ability to reduce income inequality is part of the IMF policy. As IMF is involved with social policies and lending constraints, then a countries macro-economics are designed for growth and poverty reduction (IMF, 2001).


UNESCO policy sees adult education as a means for governments to globally overcome disadvantages (Milana, 2012). The UNESCO “Hamburg Declaration” considers education as a right for adults and part of participating fully in society (Milana, 2012). The idea of lifelong education “is the keystone of the learning society (Medel-Añonuevo, Ohsako & Mauch, 2001).  

Lifelong Learning

The shift from education to lifelong learning is now a consistent global policy, which Delors et al (1996) report to UNESCO, emphasised the shifting the “education paradigm” from a local to world scale to allow democratic participation and economic growth to human development. UNESCO’s (2001) publication ‘Revisiting lifelong learning for the 21st century’ visions were guiding principles utilised by other transnational organizations such as the World Bank to guide lifelong learning educational agenda (Milana, 2012).

Globalisation (+ Noam Chomsky)

Keywords: Neoliberalism; Globalisation; Noam Chomsky; Lifelong Learning


Boeren, E. (2016). Lifelong Learning Participation in a Changing Policy Context: An Interdisciplinary Theory. Springer.

Bond, P. (2001). The IMF and World Bank Reconsidered. In Development: Theory, policy and practice (pp.230-249). Oxford University Press Southern Africa.

International Monetary Fund (2001) Social Dimensions of the IMF’s Policy Dialogue.

Medel-Añonuevo, C., Ohsako, T., & Mauch, W. (2001). Revisiting Lifelong Learning for the 21st Century. UNESCO.

Milana, M. (2012). Globalisation, transnational policies and adult education. International Review of Education58(6), 777-797.

Milana, M. (2012). Political globalization and the shift from adult education to lifelong learning. European journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults3(2), 103-117.

Moutsios, S. (2009). International organisations and transnational education policy. Compare, 39(4), 469-481.

Moutsios, S. (2010). Power, politics and transnational policy‐making in education. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 8(1), 121-141.

Walters, S. (2006). Adult learning within lifelong learning: a different lens, a different light. Journal of education, 39(1), 6-26.

The World Bank (2011) Learning for All: Investing in people’s knowledge and skills to promote development.

The World Bank (2015) Education overview.