Although the 'Third World' is not a formal subject and plays a minimal role in the National Curriculum Orders for England, this paper argues that in its constructions of 'self, 'world' and 'other', it is a potent element of the English school curriculum. Using ethnographic data from two schools and theoretical insights from post-colonialism, development studies and social theory, the paper conceptualises its communication in terms of debates around difference. Three perspectives are identified through which the 'Third World' is communicated in the curriculum - development, charity and multiculturalism. These are analysed in relation to their constructions of difference. The paper suggests that contradictions between and within them reflect a process of change in which a more critical knowledge of the 'Third World' in the curriculum is emerging. The paper concludes with some observations on the factors constraining this process and some recommendations for policy and further research.