"World class schools" - noble aspiration or globalised hokum?

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This paper is an edited version of the author’s BAICE Presidential Address, which was delivered in September 2009 at the 10th UKFIET International Conference on Education and Development. The editing removes the original’s visual elements but retains its tone, more or less. The paper anatomises ‘world class’, a concept, slogan, aspiration or claim which is now in routine use in the educational discourse of Anglophone countries. Fuelled by international student achievement surveys such as TIMSS and PISA, ‘world class’ speaks to a supremacist and nationalistic mindset which contrasts with other measures of national progress, especially in relation to equality and wellbeing, and with those other kinds of global consciousness which are essential to interdependence, sustainability and the UN goal of Education for All. ‘World class’ is also methodologically reductionist, elevating simple statistical correlation over the exploration of culture and, as the McKinsey report shows, it may confine the analysis of educational cause, consequence and solution to the realm of the banal, misleading or even meaningless. The notion of ‘world class’ education thus perpetuates old and unhelpful divisions in comparative and international enquiry and raises urgent questions for comparativists and organisations like BAICE.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)801-807
Number of pages17
JournalCompare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010


  • world class, schools, universities, achievement surveys, quality, equity, comparative methodology

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