Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Dr. Paul Tarc


The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) proposes that improving students’ “multidimensional capacities” through ‘global competence’ education can result in a more ‘inclusive and sustainable’ world. The purpose of this study is to critically analyze OECD’s ‘global competence’ policy (2018) as incorporated in its Programme for International Student Assessment. This document analysis employs Bacchi and Goodwin’s (2016) poststructural policy analysis, “What’s the Problem Represented to be?” approach, which unearths the assumptions, presuppositions, and potential effects of policy through a solution-problem articulation. This study finds that OECD’s solution of ‘globally competent’ learners constructs a problem that suggests national education systems are failing to produce graduates who are equipped for the needs and issues associated with the evolving global economy. Ultimately, the problem constructed in OECD’s ‘global competence’ policy comes with potential opportunities; however, it also associated with blind spots that may impede OECD’s mission of nurturing an ‘inclusive and sustainable’ world.

Summary for Lay Audience

The purpose of this study is to critically analyze the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) ‘global competence’ education policy. Why study policy? Policy is a significant artifact to analyze because when it is taken up, it can change the way people understand an issue and therefore how they think and act about that issue. My analysis focuses on a problem-solution articulation produced within OECD’s ‘global competence’ policy and the effects that this representation may have on people, education systems, and the economy. I discover that OECD’s solution is to change students’ thinking and decision-making processes by using comparative data to determine which nation state’s education systems are producing more ‘globally competent’ leaners than others, and use this information to improve education in each nation state. Consequently, the represented problem constructed suggests that education systems are failing to produce students who are equipped for today’s agile global economy. Overall, OECD is trying to advance an education intervention that equips students with the transferable competencies that the organization considers necessary for better preparing students for the neoliberal economy. OECD uses humanist rhetoric to gain support for a neoliberal education framework, which intends to drive social and economic development as a means for improving its member nation state’s economies. The utopic global community imagined in this policy offers opportunities that would indeed make the world a better place; however, this study cautions that the problem representation constructed through OECD’s notion of ‘global competence’ fails to draw attention to a couple of significant blind spots. These blind spots are problematic because the discursive and subjectification effects construct divided, un-inclusive, and unsustainable realities. As a result of this analysis, I encourage political leaders, educators, and researchers using OECD’s ‘global competence’ framework to be critical of the long-term effects that this policy constructs, as these effects do not necessarily align with the vision that OECD is promoting.