This study contributes to the discourse on the interaction of the global and the local in education. It explores how global influences, or forces external to a state’s national boundaries, are manifested in official pre-tertiary education reform documents in the Arab world and the inferences that can be made from such manifestations. This is done through comparatively analyzing the educational plans of four Arab countries: Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and Tunisia, and investigating the factors that can explain their potential convergence and divergence areas. Drawing on relevant literature on global influences on education and using elements of both World Society theory and the Globally Structured Agenda for Education (GSAE) approach, the varying ways by which global forces influence educational planning in the Arab world are highlighted and rationalized. The texts in the educational plans are analyzed using thematic document analysis to uncover the focal categories of global influence. Findings of the study reveal that supranational organizations, like the World Bank, UNESCO, UNICEF and the OECD play a fundamental role in enhancing global influence in the region, mainly through the production of knowledge and the provision of technical and material support. It is also apparent from the findings that neoliberal ideologies such as privatization, decentralization and performance management prevail as strategies of good governance. In addition, comparison of the plans suggests that both political economy and the extent of cooperation between individual countries and supranational organizations have implications for the way each country positions itself in the world and consequently how it responds to global forces in its educational plans. The study concludes with raising a concern about the ability of these countries to compete in a ‘knowledge economy’, as targeted in their plans, when their dependency on external producers of knowledge is as high as depicted in the study.