Due to the historically outsized influence of the United Kingdom’s development assistance office on international aid, a better understanding of the underlying ideologies and political priorities guiding this agency would help the larger aid community more clearly understand the power dynamics and structural context of the development industry. However, these ideologies and dynamics are often left implicit and are not always easily understood. The purpose of this article is to use critical discourse analysis to unpack the ideologies, political priorities and power dynamics present in DfID’s official education policy documents. In so doing, we make the implicit explicit, and begin to unpack the implicit meanings and assumptions that are present in these written texts, particularly regarding the deprioritized role of the state in providing a high-quality education. We argue that this analysis reveals an underlying perception within DfID that the private sector is more effective at providing public education in developing countries than the public sector.