The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way

Monday, February 24, 2014

Time magazine writer Amanda Ripley talks about following three American high school students as they studied abroad for a year and what happened when they were exposed to higher standards, better teaching, and more motivated students. Her book is called The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way.

Comments [11]

allover from france

My child has been in 6 different school 3 different countries he is 11. All have positive and negative. The French education is all by yes the students know lots of facts and a La Fontaine poem written in 1621. Students are taught not to guess or try if they do not know the answer...just say I do not know is better then maybe bla bla...Every student from a young age is aware who is the top of the class and who is the bottom. Students on top get more help extra help is only given if parents ask. Many times a parent is not told until April of a school year that the student might have to repeat the grade. No teacher parent meetings unless demanded by parents. (so working class parents might not realize or make the time). An example ask a 15 year French How old is your cat? Repy I do not know...? Well, have you had it for alot of years or just recently.reply NO along time...? So MAYBE it is 7 years old...reply...I do not know...This is the answer because if you do not know the answer you do not say about. In school you can not guess. They have long lunches, no sports or activities school. Once in middle school you day is similiar to an American college, so at 11 years old you might have to go to school at 10am on Monday, but finish at 4, Tuesday 8am but finish at 12. My opinion is I see lots of young people all day in parks smoking and hanging out, idle time for this age is hard to control. Most parents work so these young people sit alone at home for 5-6 hours. (playing video games and watching TV). They have done away with government testing in lower grades.

English system is very creative, fun learning, and always rewarding for children, they learn young how to draw strories by pictures and do lots of team work projects. They also have a real school spirit at school fairs, each week the entire school meets with the head director and a class does a small skit, students sing, and learn something important on how to live in society. Few in school activities are offered. They have tests in key years. They are taught to be polite and respectful.

Italy the school and staff are very loving. In elementary school you could have the same teacher from 5-11 years old. The teacher many times moves with the child. Children are very happy. History is very important. School day ends at 1:30, lunch is at home.

Testing is good because how else does the parent really know what your child is learning. Or how can the teacher know what areas, plus I think it is important that children all have the same opportunity. my children have never been do they read like an 8 year old or 11 year old. Well rounded adults are what we need, with computers and google the future generation doesn't need to know every important date in history they need to understand why or how something happened or worked, word problems, graphs, experiments,knowledge of other cultures and beliefs. This will make a child go to the top.

Feb. 27 2014 02:46 AM
Laura Polan from Westchester

That Korean teacher was not making 4 million as a teacher. He created a tutoring business, employed 30 teachers,and generated that $$ in profits, unless I misunderstood the interview. In other words, he was Korea's version of Stanley Kaplan .

Feb. 25 2014 08:42 PM
LB from NY

When I served on the school board in my suburban district I learned, to my amazement, that we spent many times more on sports than we did on any specialized or extra-curricular academic programs (other than special education services). There were several very outspoken sports-proponents on the board with me and the parents of the district's athletes were also very vocal. They all contended that sports were important not just for the athletes, many of whom were not gifted or even good scholars, but also for school spirit. (The athletes, it was claimed, needed this outlet for success since they were less likely to see success in academics.) The same year that the board voted to spend many thousands of dollars on an ice hockey team (for uniforms and equipment, ice time, transportation, coaching etc,) they decreased the budget for academic programming above and beyond the basic curriculum. But sports programming also had a significant non-monetary impact on the quality of the education: because of the constraints of sports scheduling (practices and games etc.) the school day had to start before 8am, and end in time for students to travel to sporting events at other schools. Our students were therefore forced to fight their natural adolescent circadian rhythm by rising early and trying to focus in the early morning. Lunch periods, if they had them at all, came when these young people would otherwise just be waking up from a good night's sleep. It is no surprise that the school day as it has been mangled to accommodate sports FOR A FEW has jeopardized the quality of the school day and the education FOR ALL. I am not opposed to sports per se. I most definitely support a robust and curricular physical education program that is funded by taxpayers and open to and required of all students, regardless of athletic prowess. But team sports, like theatrical productions, are extra-curricular electives and their success should not jeopardize the goal of a high school education.

Feb. 25 2014 10:39 AM

To Bonn: I teach English overseas. Your student was probably too advanced for the class she was in. To extrapolate her experience to some kind of statement about all English classes in the US is nonsense. Even you admit she improved her English. Same with the food comment. It sounds more like an axe to grind than anything else.

Feb. 24 2014 01:59 PM
Raconteuse from Manhattan

Thirty years ago Japan was much the same as South Korea, with unrelenting high-school lessons, homework and additional studies at cram schools or with private tutors in the evening and weekends--the main difference being that a Japanese high-school student would NEVER intentionally have taken a nap in class prior to graduation. Once he graduated HS and, one hoped, entered the pearly gates of higher education, however, all bets were off and many college students, except perhaps those in the most prestigious institutions like Tokyo University (Todai) were allowed to coast, often sleeping in class or, rather, not attending at all, yet passing with high marks. Jobs were so plentiful that no one worried about unemployment after graduation. That situation may have changed in today's more challenging job environment...

Feb. 24 2014 01:21 PM
Alan from Manhattan

How does Finland employ the students who do not qualify for college?

Feb. 24 2014 12:38 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Wikipedia -South Korea

"South Korea has a market economy that ranks 15th in the world by nominal GDP and 12th by purchasing power parity (PPP), identifying it as one of the G-20 major economies. It is a developed country, with a developed market and high-income economy, and is a member of OECD. South Korea is one of the Asian Tigers, and is the only developed country so far to have been included in the group of Next Eleven countries. South Korea had one of the world's fastest growing economies from the early 1960s to the late 1990s, and South Korea is still one of the fastest growing developed countries in the 2000s, along with Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan, the other three Asian Tigers.[11] South Koreans refer to this growth as the Miracle on the Han River.[12]

Having almost no natural resources and always suffering from overpopulation in its small territory, which deterred continued population growth and the formation of a large internal consumer market, South Korea adapted an export-oriented economic strategy to fuel its economy, and in 2012, South Korea was the sixth largest exporter and seventh largest importer in the world. Bank of Korea and Korea Development Institute periodically release major economic indicators and economic trends of the economy of South Korea.[13][14]"

Feb. 24 2014 12:34 PM
RJ from prospect hts

Did the author take the countries' social safety nets into account when comparing teacher compensation?

Feb. 24 2014 12:30 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

In countries where people can live relatively well just off "the fat of the land" don't have to be clever or particularly literate and well educated. So countries rich in agriculture, or oil, gold or other natural resources don't require a population that has to think much. On the other hand, countries with few natural resources, such as Japan, Switzerland, England, Germany, Israel, et al., cannot exist from a large surplus of resources they do not have. They have to manufacture products, and today it increasingly means software and services rather than hardware. It means having a population that is forced to be innovative.

Feb. 24 2014 12:23 PM
karo from Brooklyn

Amanda, please rethink PISA as your benchmark.

I highly recommend everyone listen to Yong Zhao's presentation - World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students. He explains why PISA scores are not a good measure of success.

Amanda, after listening Zhao's presentation, would you still use PISA?

Feb. 24 2014 12:23 PM
Bonn from East Village

The opposite is also true: When I lived in Madrid and taught English privately, I had one teenager for many months before and then after she went to America to study English abroad in a high school for a semester. When she got back, she told me how easy and unchallenging it was, that she didn't have to study. The only thing she got out of it, besides improving her English, was she came back FAT from all the horrible American food. Her mother immediately put her on a diet, to the girl's relief.

Feb. 24 2014 12:14 PM

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