This introduction offers an overview of the concept of populism, the debates around its definitions and its relationship with democracy and the significance of attending to populist politics in the context of education. It also lays out the political contexts in which authors have engaged with education and populist politics in the UK, Brazil and Israel, and the ways in which they understand populist shifts in education. Detailing the two main conceptions of populism used by authors in the special section, namely, populism as ideology and populism as political logic, we discuss how authors understand the construction of ‘the people’ and ‘the elite’, and the implications of the ‘antagonism’ between them in each case. Dividing the nine articles in the special section into three groups, we look at the ways in which right‐wing populism has sought to (re)shape divisions based on race, religion and nationalities, among other things; how political and pedagogic practices are being (re)imagined to counter these divisions and populist moves; and the stakes of bringing the question of populism into education. We show how this special section has brought together different conversations and disciplinary perspectives on right‐wing shifts in education, challenges to these and a potential way forward. Most importantly, we invite readers to think through the shifting role of education in democracy, as well as the divisions and hierarchies that are entailed in institutionalised education.