All Penn AHEAD Papers


The Diffusion of Education Policy in the 21st Century: Lessons from Other Fields

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version




International Education


Policy borrowing, policy mobility, traveling policy, silent borrowing, non-linear transfer

Copyright/Permission Statement

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


The ways information about national education policies is exchanged and interpreted is a field of comparative education that is under-developed. What discussion and analysis there is seems to ignore the insights and models prevalent in other domains. We looked to fields like political science, and economic and social development for concepts to strengthen the analysis of education policy mobility between nations. We found an abundance of metaphors most of which fail to capture key elements of policy diffusion including the notion that ideas change as they cross cultural boundaries. We observe that policy transfer can be purposefully initiated by the host as well as a product of coercion or external incentives. Our principal conclusions are that common framings of traveling education policies are linear, one-directional and marked by an air of beneficence. They overlook the importance of context and the actions of sovereign nations in policy formation.



Date Posted: 19 October 2020