The Smartest Kids in the World

The Smartest Kids in the World

And How They Got That Way

Book - 2013
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How Do Other Countries Create "Smarter" Kids?

In a handful of nations, virtually all children are learning to make complex arguments and solve problems they've never seen before. They are learning to think, in other words, and to thrive in the modern economy.

What is it like to be a child in the world's new education superpowers?

In a global quest to find answers for our own children, author and Time magazine journalist Amanda Ripley follows three Americans embed-ded in these countries for one year. Kim, fifteen, raises $10,000 so she can move from Oklahoma to Finland; Eric, eighteen, exchanges a high-achieving Minnesota suburb for a booming city in South Korea; and Tom, seventeen, leaves a historic Pennsylvania village for Poland.

Through these young informants, Ripley meets battle-scarred reformers, sleep-deprived zombie students, and a teacher who earns $4 million a year. Their stories, along with groundbreaking research into learning in other cultures, reveal a pattern of startling transformation: none of these countries had many "smart" kids a few decades ago. Things had changed. Teaching had become more rigorous; parents had focused on things that mattered; and children had bought into the promise of education.

A journalistic tour de force, The Smartest Kids in the World is a book about building resilience in a new world-as told by the young Americans who have the most at stake.
Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster, c2013.
ISBN: 9781451654424
Characteristics: 306 p. :,ill., ports. ;,24 cm.


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Oct 30, 2016

Great book talking about American education weakness, in comparing to a few other countries. As a parent, it is better to read it and think about this country and our kids.

Sep 15, 2014

Well written and engaging, Ripley takes this complex hot topic and organizes it into insightful facts and perspectives, and above all gives practical advice for those interested in improving education.

Sep 01, 2014

I liked Amanda Ripley's previous book "The Unthinkable," and although this book had an interesting journalistic approach, I preferred her first book and its gripping stories better. Educational philosophies and the politics of who controls public education seem hopelessly more complex than any one book could reasonably tackle. Nevertheless, her methods of examining educational systems outside of the USA is smart. I particularly liked her first appendix which gives tips on what to look for in a school. The book has a macro view, so having something concrete that a reader could immediately apply was a relief from the slowness of any real change readers might try to influence with our education system.

Jul 26, 2014

was enjoying the book until I got to Pressure Cooker. states that 1/3 of Korean students sleep in class. The S. Koreans I talked to about this claim, only laughed. They had no memory or experience with this false notion. Quote, [sometimes a strange student will sleep in class, but any teacher would wake them up, right away] I like the author's writing style, so I might read the rest of the book. hard to take, seriously tho

An absolute must read for every educator in Canada.

May 23, 2014

Good book. Every teacher should read it to realize how they are getting away from the good education in North America (U.S.A. and Canada). Students in our schools have not idea why they are there and the system has been created that way to work like that and have entrance level works, working class and low wages. The equation is low education , low expectations, easy jobs, low wages, high debts ......... Where are we going, please ?

Cynthia_N Feb 25, 2014

I picked up this book thinking I would just flip through it but I was instantly intrigued with the topic, the comparisons, and the writing. Ripley does a great job of using the experiences of United States foreign exchange students to compare and contrast the educations systems of different high performing countries. This book makes you think and gives you hope that change in the education system is necessary and possible. Highly recommended!

Jane60201 Jan 17, 2014

A very readable and thoughtful book about a vexing problem.

andreas1111 Nov 12, 2013

Looks at high performing education systems around the world in a pretty non-ideological way. Well worth a read if you are interested in learning more about what works around the world

ksoles Oct 24, 2013

According to investigative journalist Amanda Ripley’s research, most American students, even those from the top private and public school districts, cannot analyze, synthesize and form their own opinions about the material they study. But why? "The Smartest Kids in the World" attempts to answer this question in a fascinating and brilliant comparison of the US to the homes of three of the most successful education systems in the world: Finland, Poland and South Korea. Drawing on the expertise of US exchange students, Ripley outlines the major reforms and economic imperatives that brought about educational changes in these countries and discusses the day-to-day ramifications of them.

Impeccably researched and engaging, the book comes alive through Kim, Tom and Eric. Kim finds out that gaining admission to a teacher training program in Finland equates to getting into MIT and revels in the freedom teenagers have to manage their time. Eric astonishingly witnesses Korean students, whose school day routinely runs 12-15 hours, sleeping in class on their own pillows. Tom listens to Polish students argue about philosophy in a coffeehouse and finds that, to them, some degree of failure is normal and acceptable. These insider observations provide amusement and illumination, highlighting the values and practices that these countries have cultivated to help their kids succeed.

Finally, Ripley addresses the roles played by child poverty, multiculturalism, technology, extracurricular activities and parental involvement in successful education. The book ends on a positive note, asserting that any education system can reform as long as policymakers, teachers and students can tolerate feeling uncomfortable in the process.

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