The Global Education Policy Accelerator (GEPA)

N.B. The Comparing Education Systems course and the Global Education Policy Accelerator programme have the same core content – the difference is in the delivery.

This course will take you on an educational journey around the world, introducing you to the approaches of some of the world’s top-performing education systems. Through small-group seminars led by Lucy, you will have the opportunity to discuss applications to your own context, and network with and learn from other educators and policy professionals from around the world.

International comparisons in education are made frequently by politicians, think tanks and education NGOs, and are often used to justify reforms that affect students and teachers, for better, and for worse.

This course enables students to take a critical look at the tools and methods by which these comparisons are made, supporting them to consider the cultural and policy contexts within which education practices take place, and enabling them to learn from other systems, carefully and critically. Conversations with educators and policy professionals from other contexts give an immediate opportunity to practice applying this learning.

Students engage with a range of case studies of developed education systems, examining in turn a series of education policies and practices that affect compulsory education, and comparing such approaches with those taken in their own systems.

This course aims to get give students the theoretical and conceptual tools required to prepare them for their own research in this field, and for future conversations and decision-making regarding education policy in their professional lives. As this course was originally developed as a Masters module at the University of Buckingham, it has been peer reviewed, and students who successfully complete the course are eligible to receive a certificate to recognise their achievement.


I found the course very interesting and engaging, especially because it helped me to learn and understand a lot about how policies are influenced by transnational discourses on education, and how these inform curricula, pedagogy, policies, and classroom teaching and learning. I highly recommend this course to anyone interested in all aspects of education.”
~ Dr Albert Juma, Maths and Physics Teacher in Melbourne
"A brilliant course that provides an accelerated understanding of international comparative reviews, carefully designed by a domain expert. Thoughtfully compiled, easy and logical to use. Absorbing, fun and massively informative."
~ Patrick Wall, Founder of  Edpol

Course Content Overview


Topic 1: Introduction to International Benchmarking

This unit introduces students to large-scale international assessments, considers their impact (for better and for worse), provides a brief history of comparative education and asks the questions: Is comparative education a science? Should it be?

Topic 2: Research Methods for International Comparisons

This unit introduces students to different types of comparative study, and to a divide between ‘user-focused’ and ‘theory-focused’ research. It examines the difference between policy borrowing and policy learning, and asks the question: Can we trust PISA data?

Topic 3: GERM (the Global Education Reform Movement) and Finland

This unit introduces students to the ‘Global Education Reform Movement’ and its constituent policies, such as test-based accountability and school choice. It examines the history of Finnish education policy in this area, and asks the question: Is Finland immune to GERM?

Topic 4: Cultural Approaches to Learning in East and West

This unit examines philosophical, psychological and cultural differences in approaches to learning between ‘The East’ and ‘The West’. It compares Aristotelian and Confucian ideas about learning, looks at psychological research on how students in different countries think about it, and addresses five stereotypes about East Asian education.

Topic 5: Approaches to Studying Comparative Pedagogy

This unit introduces students to different ways of studying comparative pedagogy, and considers why there is relatively little comparative pedagogical research. It presents a framework for dividing up pedagogy which draws upon the existing research, and will be referred to in future units.

Topic 6: Pedagogy in the Nordics, East Asia, and Worldwide

This unit presents qualitative comparative research on pedagogy in two regions and quantitative survey data across seventy-two countries. Finnish pedagogy is compared and contrasted with three Nordic neighbours, key features of Japanese and Chinese pedagogy are explicated, and relationships between pedagogical practices and PISA outcomes are examined.

Topic 7: Beyond Reading, Maths and Science

This unit looks at evidence on other important outcomes of education in different countries, often referred to as 21st Century skills. We hear from Swedish teachers about their approach to teaching Citizenship, and consider differences in approaches to the early years across top-performing countries.

Topic 8: Comparative Insights on Curriculum

This unit examines global trends in curriculum design, and in particular the move towards competency-based ‘New Curricula’. This approach is compared with curriculum research conducted during the early TIMSS studies, which identify common features of curricula in top-performing countries. It asks the question: who should control and create the curriculum?

Topic 9: Equitable Education: Inclusion and Fairness

This unit looks at how various policies relate to equity in education, through the lenses of international quantitative data and small-scale qualitative case studies in equitable systems. Policies and practices examined include tracking, student support and approaches to curriculum.

Topic 10: The Importance of Teacher Policy

This unit brings a comparative lens to three areas: the work of the teacher, the status of the teacher, and the training of the teacher. It uses data from the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) alongside case studies on individual countries to generate insights and policy options on the perennial questions of how to attract, develop and retain teachers.

Course Delivery


The Global Education Policy Accelerator programme is a cohort-based programme which takes place over the course of five months. It consists of online access to over 15 hours of original audio material in the form of lectures and expert interviews, in addition to curated videos, reading lists, online text, glossaries of key terms and quizzes to check your understanding. This is organised into ten topics, with an hour-long seminar dedicated to discussing each one. Cohorts are no larger than eight people, allowing for genuine participation from all students.

The seminars are held every other week, giving students two weeks to engage with the content in each topic. Discussions focus on key student takeaways from the course, and on applications of the content to students’ own educational contexts.

At the end of this five months, you will be able to keep a book (in pdf form) with transcripts of all the lectures to refer to in the future, and on completion of the course, a certificate from the University of Buckingham recognizing your achievement. You will also be added to a LinkedIn group (if desired) connecting you to alumni of the GEPA programme.

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Should you apply for Global Education Policy Accelerator programme (GEPA) or sign-up for the standalone Comparing Education Systems course?

The online content of these two courses is the same – the difference between them is the addition of 10 seminars (every other week) on the GEPA, with Lucy and a small (maximum 8), select group of educators and policy professionals.

The GEPA would therefore suit you if you would benefit from:

  • small group discussions to help you deepen your understanding;
  • some gentle accountability (having seminars gives you a nudge to engage with the respective online content);
  • connections with education and policy professionals from around the world;
  • ten hours of live access to an expert international education policy over five months.

If these additional features are important to you, and you have at least an undergraduate degree and some experience working in education or policy, you can apply for the GEPA above. Please note there are limited places on this programme.

If these things are not important to you, you are unsuccessful in your application, or the price of the GEPA is a barrier to your participation, you can still develop your understanding of education systems by accessing the standalone Comparing Education Systems course
here.

student reviews

What they say

"Highly recommend this course. Best ever CPD. Extremely thought-provoking and forcing me to think deeply and broadly. Lots of excellent academic reading material, audio lectures, videos and short quizzes, followed up with great seminar discussions with Lucy and other super-interesting experts from a wide range of education/policy backgrounds. I can't stop telling colleagues and friends about what I am learning." 

Dave Morgan, Head of Economics at Harrow School.

This course has been truly professionally-life- changing for me. Learning about and understanding educational policy and practice in other countries and cultures has made me reflect on why (and how) I am the educator I am and enabled me to be aware of all the unconscious assumptions I held..” 

LIBBY NICHOLAS, Managing Director at DUKES EDUCATION