The Secrets Behind the Success of the World’s Education Superpowers

explore the book that was listed as one of the Economist’s Books of the Year within a week of its release 

"A truly important contribution to educational scholarship"

- Professor Dylan Wiliam -

"Crehan's work has the edge . . . a powerful defence of the idea that there is a lot to learn from how other countries learn."

- economist

"Mind-expanding and topical . . . completely fascinating. As a serving primary school governor, I read it avidly, and it made me dream of an education system that is designed by thoughtful, experienced and caring teachers."

- bookseller

"Audacious and important . . . Cleverlands is not just for specialists: it's a wry and accessible narrative of personal enterprise."

- prospect

"Lucy Crehan’s book is refreshingly fair-minded and makes a case that there is a lot to learn about how other countries learn."

- Books of the Year Economist

As a teacher in an inner-city school, Lucy Crehan was exasperated with ever-changing government policy claiming to be based on lessons from ‘top-performing’ education systems. 

She resolved to find out what was really going on in the classrooms of countries whose teenagers ranked top in the world in reading, maths and science. Cleverlands documents Crehan’s journey around the world, weaving together her experiences with research on policy, history, psychology and culture to offer extensive new insights into what we can learn from these countries.

Cleverlands was listed as one of the Economist’s Books of the Year within a week of its release. It has been translated into seven languages and has a 4.6/5 rating on Amazon.

what people say about cleverlands

Book Reviews

"This was a very useful book in understanding what is going on in the countries that are successful in educating their children. What you get from this book that you may not get elsewhere is that it puts the achievements of these countries in their cultural context. The implication in effect is that it is not 100% replicatable elsewhere, but there are many things that can be learned from the pedagogy and policies of these countries. The book is well written and engaging."


"With good rhetorical writing and solid research, Crehan looks at the 5 top performing countries on the PISA exams. With visits to each place, she combines academic research with personal encounters. Crehan tells the stories from the perspectives of students, parents, teachers, principals, administrations, and government officials. In her final chapters she draws out principles that can be applied and explores possible trade-offs for applying those principles. Every teacher, future teacher, and teacher educator should read this book."


"Most of the books on education are not practical. This one is an exception. It lists down-to-earth features that characterize successful educational systems in five countries. Still the argumentation suffers from a methodical problem: the book surveys only successful systems (and sometimes mentions England as a counter example). It does not check if the features under discussion do not hold in other, non-successful, educational systems."


"This book really made me think about contemporary approaches and debates in compulsory education. Crehan does address her own shortfalls in her research (e.g., China where she only examined Shanghai) but she cast a great wide net of educational systems to examine. A great book to make you think about how we best educate our national populations."


Exploring the impact of career models on teacher motivation

Lucy has also written a more technical book on the relationship between career structures and teacher motivation, for IIEP UNESCO.