“Everywhere I went, in every country, people complained about their education system.”
What is the best way for a nation to educate its children? Amanda Ripley explores that question in The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way. The author looks at education systems in four countries – America, South Korea, Poland and Finland. The book is not just full of facts and statistics; it is full of personal stories from children, parents, educators and school staff on how the different education systems work. The book follows three American high school students who participate in exchange programs with Finland, South Korea and Poland – all countries that score high on the PISA, an assessment used to compare education systems worldwide. It tests 15-year-olds every three years.
I listened to Amanda Ripley’s Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why and really liked the way she presented the topic of survival. I saw she had another book out about education and as a parent, I knew I would want to read it soon. It was available as an audiobook from my library in just a few days.
South Korea has an education system where students study for the high school exam all day, every day. The pressure is high. In Poland, they are trying brand new things to bring their education system up to high standards. In Finland, educators are in a selective field, like doctors in America. Schools are for learning and teachers must be highly qualified. In America, the standards are different in every district and there is much more that happens in school than learning – like football. In the end, Ripley concludes a great education system must value its teachers, put a sole focus on education and have high standards that push students.
“One thing was clear: To give our kids the kind of education they deserved, we had to first agree that rigor mattered most of all; that school existed to help kids learn to think, to work hard, and yes, to fail. That was the core consensus that made everything else possible.”
I would highly recommend this book to every parent, educator and school staff member – anyone who deals with children and education. I learned a lot from this book. She even offers tips to parents on how their influence can help or hinder their children. Education is important and this book shows how to make it better.