Valuable Lessons from the World’s Best Schools

Rear view of the teens sitting in the classroom and raising hands to answer the question.


Amanda Ripley’s book ‘The World’s Smartest Kids’ provided quite an insight into how the world’s top notch public high schools and educational systems help cultivate the ‘smartest’ kids on earth. It was one of the most welcome additions to the education reform debate. Needless to say, the book was published at a time when the United States was grappling with increased expenditure on education but only seeing mediocre to average results. With such a challenge facing the country, Amanda Ripley decided to go on a quest and find out what distinguishes US students from students from other countries that do better. Her approach involved interviewing American students who had studied in high performing countries. She managed to find several reasons that explain why the education system in US has been lagging for years. Below are some of her findings.

Old school approach to education

For years, the US has focused a lot on the merits of one-on-one online instruction, adding Smart Boards in classrooms and the need for more internet connectivity. The exchange students interviewed by Ripley cited that the high performing countries don’t bother about any of the above. As Eva Moskowitz may have put it, the obsession with technology by the US is akin to worrying about putting TV screens in planes when those planes aren’t event built.

Pre-service training

Most of the highly performing countries make a point of preparing teachers for the classroom by investing lots of money in pre-service training. The job of being a teacher is not taken lightly nor is it for the faint hearted. Before being a teacher, one has to meet the rigorous standards for qualification. The teacher training schools in the US hardly prepare their teachers for any of the challenges they will face in the classroom, according to a report published by the National Center on Teacher Quality.

Dedication to education

Unlike students in the US, the students in high performing countries are highly dedicated and more serious about learning. This may attributed to the opportunities bestowed upon students in the US through abundant and robust higher education which has distracted them from the importance of focusing on learning at all levels of education including elementary, middle and high school and beyond.

Parent involvement in education

In the United States, parent involvement in their children’s education is often defined by attendance of sporting events, volunteering at school, raising money for school and the number of parent teacher conferences attended. In high performing countries, parents spend money and time after school to complement their children’s education. In fact a recent study report showed that South Korean parents spend nearly as much on after school tutoring as families in the US spend on video games.

– Sara, staff writer

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