This paper discusses how economists contributed to OEEC-OECD policies between the 1950s and the 1960s, when OECD emerged as a truly global organization. We aim at offering a contribution, based on extensive archival sources, to what Coats defined the 'ambitious effort' to study 'the systematic analysis of the activities and influence of professional economists in the modern (i.e., post-1945) world' (Coats 1986: vii). In particular, at the organizational level, we highlight the porous relationship between national and international governmental circles. As for the policy agenda, we discuss how a new focus on the nexus between backwardness, development policies, and the economics of education emerged in the European context, and how this focus was conceptually distinct from analyses centered on growth in advanced economies. This specifically European developmental focus produced a coordinated effort at addressing the educational question, which overlapped with new trends in economic research on the role of human capital for economic growth.