For the past 10 years the Ministry of Education of Mongolia has periodically oscillated between decentralization and recentralization policies. On paper, it has consistently and enthusiastically subscribed to decentralization, but in practice has given these policies low priority. This study attempts to explain the discrepancies between policy talk and actual implementation. Methodologically, the authors investigate local policy contexts and examine how international interventions such as decentralization policies are locally reinterpreted or 'Mongolized'. The study examines several areas where cultural legacies from the socialist past have clashed with the expectations of international donors. Theoretically, the Mongolian fiasco of decentralization reform lends itself as a case to address issues that have been raised both in comparative research on 'transitology' and on cross-national policy borrowing.