Teaching the 'Third World': Unsettling discourses of difference in the school curriculum

Matthew W. Smith*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485-499
Number of pages15
JournalOxford Review of Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1999
Externally publishedYes

Cite this