In a global context where national education and social policies are increasingly shaped by the influence of powerful global agendas, international surveys and league tables – combined with a search for so called ‘best practice’ – much can be learned from context-sensitive, comparative research that challenges one-size-fits-all assumptions. The paper examines this critique, in the light of recent research that demonstrates how many small states worldwide are prioritising educational policy trajectories that are different, out of step, or in advance of those advocated in much of the dominant international literature and discourse. In doing so, the analysis highlights the importance of contextual differences in educational policy development and in disciplined comparative and international research in education. In concluding, it is also argued that there is much that the international community can learn from such comparative research and from the distinctive experience of small states.
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