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The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way (English Edition) par [Ripley, Amanda]
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Longueur : 321 pages Word Wise: Activé Langue : Anglais

Description du produit



For most of my career at Time and other magazines, I worked hard to avoid education stories. If my editors asked me to write about schools or tests, I countered with an idea about terrorism, plane crashes, or a pandemic flu. That usually worked.

I didn’t say so out loud, but education stories seemed, well, kind of soft. The articles tended to be headlined in chalkboard font and festooned with pencil doodles. They were brimming with good intentions but not much evidence. The people quoted were mostly adults; the kids just turned up in the photos, smiling and silent.

Then, an editor asked me to write about a controversial new leader of Washington, D.C.’s public schools. I didn’t know much about Michelle Rhee, except that she wore stiletto heels and tended to say “crap” a lot in interviews. So, I figured it would be a good story, even if it meant slipping into the fog of education.

But something unexpected happened in the fog. I spent months talking to kids, parents, and teachers, as well as people who have been creatively researching education in new ways. Pretty soon I realized that Rhee was interesting, but she was not the biggest mystery in the room.

The real mystery was this: Why were some kids learning so much—and others so very little?

Education was suddenly awash in data; we knew more than ever about what was happening—or failing to happen—from one neighborhood or classroom to the next. And it didn’t add up. Everywhere I went I saw nonsensical ups and downs in what kids knew: in rich neighborhoods and poor, white neighborhoods and black, public schools and private. The national data revealed the same peaks and valleys, like a sprawling, nauseating roller coaster. The dips and turns could be explained in part by the usual narratives of money, race, or ethnicity. But not entirely. Something else was going on, too.

Over the next few years, as I wrote more stories about education, I kept stumbling over this mystery. At Kimball Elementary School in Washington, D.C., I saw fifth graders literally begging their teacher to let them solve a long division problem on the chalkboard. If they got the answer right, they would pump their fists and whisper-shout, “Yes!” This was a neighborhood where someone got murdered just about every week, a place with 18 percent unemployment.

In other places, I saw kids bored out of their young minds, kids who looked up when a stranger like me walked into the room, watching to see if I would, please God, create some sort of distraction to save them from another hour of nothingness.

For a while, I told myself that this was the variation you’d expect from one neighborhood to the next, from one principal or teacher to another. Some kids got lucky, I supposed, but most of the differences that mattered had to do with money and privilege.

Then one day I saw this chart, and it blew my mind.

The United States might have remained basically flat over time, but that was the exception, it turned out. Look at Finland! It had rocketed from the bottom of the world to the top, without pausing for breath. And what was going on in Norway, right next door, which seemed to be slip sliding into the abyss, despite having virtually no child poverty? And there was Canada, careening up from mediocrity to the heights of Japan. If education was a function of culture, could culture change that dramatically—that fast?

Worldwide, children’s skills rose and fell in mysterious and hopeful ways, sometimes over short periods of time. The mystery I’d noticed in Washington, D.C., got far more interesting when viewed from outer space. The vast majority of countries did not manage to educate all their kids to high levels, not even all of their better-off kids. Compared to most countries, the United States was typical, not much better nor much worse. But, in a small number of countries, really just a handful of eclectic nations, something incredible was happening. Virtually all kids were learning critical thinking skills in math, science, and reading. They weren’t just memorizing facts; they were learning to solve problems and adapt. That is to say, they were training to survive in the modern economy.

How to explain it? American kids were better off, on average, than the typical child in Japan, New Zealand, or South Korea, yet they knew far less math than those children. Our most privileged teenagers had highly educated parents and attended the richest schools in the world, yet they ranked eighteenth in math compared to their privileged peers around the world, scoring well below affluent kids in New Zealand, Belgium, France, and Korea, among other places. The typical child in Beverly Hills performed below average, compared to all kids in Canada (not some other distant land, Canada!). A great education by the standards of suburban America looked, from afar, exceedingly average.

At first, I told myself to resist the hype. Did it really matter if we ranked number one in the world in education outcomes? Or even number ten? Our elementary students did fine on international tests, thank you very much, especially in reading. The problems arose in math and science, and they became most obvious when our kids grew into teenagers. That’s when American students scored twenty-sixth on a test of critical thinking in math, below average for the developed world. But, so what? Our teenagers had performed at or below average on international tests for as long as anyone had been counting. It had not mattered much to our economy so far; why should it matter in the future?

The United States was a big, diverse country. We had other advantages that overwhelmed our K-12 mediocrity, right? We still had world-class research universities, and we continued to invest more in research and development than any other nation. It was easier to start a business here than in most places on earth. The values of hard work and self-sufficiency coursed like electricity through the United States, just as they always had.

But everywhere I went as a reporter, I saw reminders that the world had changed. The 2,300 days that our kids spent in school before high-school graduation mattered more than ever before. In Oklahoma, the CEO of the company that makes McDonald’s apple pies told me she had trouble finding enough Americans to handle modern factory jobs—during a recession. The days of rolling out dough and packing pies in boxes were over. She needed people who could read, solve problems, and communicate what had happened on their shift, and there weren’t enough of them coming out of Oklahoma’s high schools and community colleges.

The head of Manpower, a staffing and recruiting firm with offices in eighty-two countries, said one of the hardest jobs to fill anywhere was the sales job. Once upon a time, a salesperson had to have thick skin and a good golf game. Over the years, however, products and financial markets had become wildly more complex, and information had become available to everyone, including the customer. Relationships were no longer everything. To succeed, salespeople had to understand the increasingly sophisticated and customizable products they were selling almost as well as the engineers who worked on them.

Rather suddenly, academic mediocrity had become a heavier legacy to bear. Without a high-school diploma, you couldn’t work as a garbage collector in New York City; you couldn’t join the Air Force. Yet a quarter of our kids still walked out of high school and never came back.

Not long ago, zero countries had a better high-school graduation rate than the United States; by 2009, about twenty countries did. In an era in which knowledge mattered more than ever, why did our kids know less than they should? How much of our problems could be blamed on diversity, poverty, or the vastness of the country? Were our weaknesses mostly failures of policy or of culture, of politicians or of parents?

We told ourselves that we were at least raising more creative children, the kind who might not excel in electrical engineering but who had the audacity to speak up, to invent, and to redefine what was possible. But was there a way to know if we were right?

the mythical nordic robots

Education pundits had worked mightily to explain different countries’ wildly different results. They had visited faraway schools on choreographed junkets. They’d debriefed politicians and principals and generated PowerPoints for the folks back home. However, their conclusions were maddeningly abstract.

Take Finland, for example, which ranked at the top of the world. American educators described Finland as a silky paradise, a place where all the teachers were admired and all the children beloved. They insisted that Finland had attained this bliss partly because it had very low rates of child poverty, while the United States had high rates. According to this line of reasoning, we could never fix our schools until we fixed poverty.

The poverty narrative made intuitive sense. The child poverty rate in the United States was about 20 percent, a national disgrace. Poor kids lived with the kind of grinding stress that children should not have had to manage. They learned less at home, on average, and needed more help at school.

The mystery was not so simply solved, however. If poverty was the main problem, then what to make of Norway? A Nordic welfare state with high taxes, universal health care, and abundant natural resources, Norway enjoyed, like Finland, less than 6 percent child poverty, one of the lowest rates in the world. Norway spent about as much as we did on education, which is to say, a fortune, relative to the rest of the world. And, yet, Norwegian kids performed just as unimpressively as our own kids on an international test of scientific literacy in 2009. Something was amiss in Norway, and it wasn’t poverty.

Meanwhile, the Finns themselves offered vague explanations for their success. Education, I was told, had always been valued in Finland, going back hundreds of years. That explained it. But, then, why did only 10 percent of children finish high school in Finland in the 1950s? Why were there huge gaps between what rural and urban kids knew and could do in Finland in the 1960s? Back then, Finland’s passion for education had seemed rather uneven. What had happened?

At the same time, President Barack Obama and his education secretary said that they envied the South Korean education system, lauding its highly respected teachers and its demanding parents. On the surface at least, Korea appeared to have nothing in common with Finland. The Korean system was driven by testing, and Korean teenagers spent more time studying than our kids spent awake.

Listening to this cacophony, I kept wondering what it would be like to actually be a kid in these mystical lands of high scores, zero dropouts, and college graduates. Were Finnish kids really the Nordic robots that I kept reading about? Did Korean kids think they were getting such a sweet deal? What about their parents? No one talked about them. Didn’t parents matter even more than teachers?

I decided to spend a year traveling around the world on a field trip to the smart-kid countries. I wanted to go see these little bots for myself. What were they doing at ten on a Tuesday morning? What did their parents say to them when they got home? Were they happy?

field agents

To meet the Nordic robots, I needed sources on the inside: kids who could see and do things that I could never do on my own. So, I recruited a team of young experts to help.

During the 2010–11 school year, I followed three remarkable American teenagers as they experienced smarter countries in real life. These kids volunteered to be part of this project as they headed off for year-long foreign-exchange adventures, far from their families. I visited them in their foreign posts, and we kept in close touch.

Their names were Kim, Eric, and Tom, and they served as my escorts through borrowed homes and adopted cafeterias, volunteer fixers in a foreign land. Kim traveled from Oklahoma to Finland, Eric from Minnesota to South Korea, and Tom from Pennsylvania to Poland. They came from different parts of America, and they left for different reasons. I met Kim, Eric, and Tom with the help of AFS,

Youth for Understanding, and the Rotary Clubs, outfits that run exchange programs around the world.

I chose these Americans as advisers, but they turned out to be straight-up protagonists. They did not stand for all American kids, and their experiences could not reflect the millions of realities in their host countries. But, in their stories, I found the life that was missing from the policy briefings.

Kim, Eric, and Tom kept me honest. They didn’t want to talk about tenure policies or Tiger Moms; unburdened by the hang-ups of adults, they talked a lot about other kids, the most powerful influences in teenagers’ lives. All day long, they contemplated the full arc of their new lives, from their host families’ kitchens to their high-school bathrooms. They had much to say.

In each country, my American field agents introduced me to other kids, parents, and teachers, who became co-conspirators in this quest. In Korea, for example, Eric sent me to his friend Jenny, a teenager who had spent half her childhood in America and the other half in Korea. Jenny, an accidental expert on education, patiently answered questions that Eric could not. (Video interviews with my student sources can be found on the website for this book at

To put the conclusions of these informants in context, I surveyed hundreds of other exchange students about their experiences in the United States and abroad. Unlike almost everyone else who proffers an opinion about education in other countries, these young people had first-hand experience. I asked them about their parents, schools, and lives in both places. Their answers changed the way I thought about our problems and our strengths. They knew what distinguished an American education, for better and for worse, and they did not mind telling.

When I finally came back to the United States, I felt more optimistic, not less. It was obvious that we’d been wasting a lot of time and money on things that didn’t matter; our schools and families seemed confused, more than anything else, lacking the clarity of purpose I saw in Finland, Korea, and Poland. Yet I also didn’t see anything anywhere that I didn’t think our parents, kids, and teachers could do just as well or better one day.

What I did see were whole generations of kids getting the kind of education all children deserve. They didn’t always get it gracefully, but they got it. Despite politics, bureaucracy, antiquated union contracts and parental blind spots—the surprisingly universal plagues of all education systems everywhere—it could be done. And other countries could help show us the way.

Revue de presse

“[Ripley] gets well beneath the glossy surfaces of these foreign cultures and manages to make our own culture look newly strange…The question is whether the startling perspective provided by this masterly book can also generate the will to make changes.” (New York Times Book Review)

“Compelling . . . What is Poland doing right? And what is America doing wrong? Amanda Ripley, an American journalist, seeks to answer such questions in The Smartest Kids in the World, her fine new book about the schools that are working around the globe ….Ms. Ripley packs a startling amount of insight in this slim book.” (The Economist)

“[T]he most illuminating reporting I have ever seen on the differences between schools in America and abroad.” (Jay Mathews, education columnist, The Washington Post)

“[The Smartest Kids in the World is] a riveting new book….Ripley’s policy recommendations are sensible and strong….The American school reform debate has been desperately in need of such no-nonsense advice, which firmly puts matters of intellect back at the center of education where they belong.” (The Daily Beast)

The Smartest Kids in the World should be on the back-to-school reading list of every parent, educator and policymaker interested in understanding why students in other countries outperform U.S. students on international tests.” (US News & World Report)

“Gripping….Ripley's characters are fascinating, her writing style is accessible, and her observations are fresh….If you're interested in how to improve public schools, read Ripley's book today.” (The Huffington Post)

“In riveting prose...this timely and inspiring book offers many insights into how to improve America’s mediocre school system.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

"If you care about education, you must read this book. By recounting what three intrepid kids learned from the rest of the world, it shows what we can learn about how to fix our schools. Ripley's delightful storytelling has produced insights that are both useful and inspiring." (Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs and Benjamin Franklin)

“This book gives me hope that we can create education systems of equity and rigor—if we heed the lessons from top performing countries and focus more on preparing teachers than on punishing them." (Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers)

“This is a no-nonsense, no-excuses book about how we can improve outcomes for all kids, from the poorest to the wealthiest. It avoids platitudes and ideology and relies instead on the experiences of students.” (Joel Klein, CEO, Amplify, and former chancellor, New York Department of Education)

“Amanda Ripley observes with rare objectivity and depth. She finds a real and complex world ‘over there’—schools with flaws of their own but also real and tangible lessons about how to do better by our kids. The Smartest Kids in the World gave me more insights, as a parent and as an educator, than just about anything else I’ve read in a while.” (Doug Lemov, author of Teach Like a Champion)

“Such an important book! Amanda Ripley lights the path to engaging our next generation to meet a different bar. She makes an enormous contribution to the national and global discussion about what must be done to give all our children the education they need to invent the future.” (Wendy Kopp, founder and chair, Teach For America, and CEO, Teach For All)

"The Smartest Kids in the World is a must read for anyone concerned about the state of American public education. By drawing on experiences, successes, and failures in education systems in the highest-performing countries across the globe, Amanda Ripley lays out a course for what we must do to dramatically improve our nation's schools.” (Michelle Rhee, Founder and CEO of StudentsFirst)

“Ripley’s stirring investigation debunks many tenets of current education reform.” (BookPage)

“In lively, accessible prose….Ripley’s book looks at the data from a new perspective. Those stunned parents and teachers in New York State and elsewhere would do well to read this book first if they are inclined to blame their children’s/students’ poor results on a new test.” (OECD “Education Today” Blog)

“[Ripley] is a compelling storyteller who deftly plaits humorous anecdotes and hard data to whip you in the face with her findings.” (Kristen Levithan Brain, Child Magazine)

“Ripley’s evaluation of education in a changing world is revealing and thought-provoking.” (Rocky Mountain Telegram)

“A good read . . . . If you want to understand what goes on in other countries’ education systems, read [The Smartest Kids in the World].” (Coshocton Tribune)

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 2827 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 321 pages
  • Editeur : Simon & Schuster; Édition : Reprint (13 août 2013)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B0061NT61Y
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Format: Format Kindle
*A full executive summary of this book will be available at newbooksinbrief dot com, on or before Tuesday, September 10, 2013.

The main argument: In the recent past the K-12 public education system in the United States has been lackluster at best (some might say deplorable). Not that the various levels of government have not put in a great deal of effort (and money) to try and fix the problem; indeed, numerous attempts at education reform have been tried over the past 20 years or so, and the US currently spends more on public education per student than any other nation. Still, all of these good intentions (and boatloads of money) have achieved relatively little in terms of results. When compared with other developed nations, for example, American high school students currently rank 12th in reading, 17th in science, and a paltry 26th in math. These numbers would be concerning even at the best of times, but with the nation currently struggling through a seemingly endless economic slow-down, and with the global economy becoming increasingly competitive (and modern jobs requiring more and more advanced cognitive skills all the time), these numbers are very troubling indeed.

All is not lost, though. Other nations have shown that they are able to achieve far better academic results using far less money, and thus we may deem it high time that we investigate just what the leading nations are doing different that has allowed them to be so successful. It is this very project that journalist Amanda Ripley sets for herself in her new book The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way.

Ripley focuses her attention on the education systems of 3 countries in particular: South Korea, Finland and Poland.
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Very well written, pleasant to read. The methodology adopted for collecting information comparing three different education systrems (Corea, Finland and Poland) is not bad. It's enquiring journalism and not a comparative study of education. The author considers results of the international survey PISA done by OECD as a golden benchmark for showing weaknesses of the US education systems. Some key words: rigor, disciplineand creativity, agreement on education goals. How to combine this factors? She doesn't say despite the huge differences between the three esducation systems considered in the book. There are other dimensions to take in account as the splendid output of learning psychology or of intelligence psychology. The PISA results are not the top of educational achievements. Other schooling results can be achieved. It's a very biased book. Comparative approach is used for critising education styles in US schools. There are education systems and education policies resisting against PISA pressure where learning achievements are not probably high as in Corea or Finland but where they are not so bad. By the way the Corea living style of high schools students is scary. Is this the price to pay for achieving well in PISA?
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) (Peut contenir des commentaires issus du programme Early Reviewer Rewards) 4.6 étoiles sur 5 603 commentaires
16 internautes sur 17 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 An Entertaining and Fascinating Look at What Makes Schools Great 13 juin 2015
Par Jiang Xueqin - Publié sur
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
In "The Smartest Kids in the World," Amanda Ripley travels with three American teenagers as they enrol for a year in high schools in three of the world's top performing education systems: Finland, South Korea, and Poland. Ripley's intention is to discover the secrets of these countries' success, and to think long and hard about what American can learn from these education powerhouses. Ripley's conclusion is that for America to offer its kids a world-class education it needs to emphasize academic rigor over athletic prowess, set high expectations for children rather than coddle them, and train and treat teachers like professionals.

To make her case, rather than rely on data and research (for which there are plenty to support her conclusions), Ripley actually takes us deep inside schools, and show us what actually happens in them. This makes for an entertaining read, and some of her anecdotes are outright hilarious. Ripley has a clear and analytical mind, and as an outsider she offers a fresh and balanced view on what makes schools great.

My only objection is that Ripley seems so adamant about making her case that she's all too willing to ignore the complexity of the situation, and even make bold statements that weaken her argument. For example, she compares the South Korean education system to a hamster wheel in which kids are being driven to work outrageously hard, and the American system to a "moon bounce" in which kids are praised to the sky. Neither option is good, but she says she'd prefer the hamster wheel because it teaches students to work hard and to think deeply. Really?

Ripley also takes for granted certain things that are hotly debated right now. For her, a country's PISA scores is the best touchstone of academic achievement -- if students do well on the PISA, it's because they've been taught to think rigorously and deeply. (She knows because she took the PISA once, and she got one question wrong.) She also believes that the Common Core is America's best way forward. No wonder then that her book has received ringing endorsements from the likes of Wendy Kopp and Michelle Rhee.

It's unfortunate that Ripley seems to have a political agenda in writing this book. It would have been a much more interesting and enlightening book if she had just focused on telling the stories of how three American teenagers fared in faraway lands.
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 We Know How It's Done, But We Refuse To Do It 27 octobre 2013
Par gary alan chamberlain - Publié sur
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
Sometimes I think great teachers represent a kind of genius—a command and love of their subject by which they inspire in students a vision of its power and beauty. But maybe student geniuses simply resonate to a subject that engages their hearts, and even mediocre (or worse) teachers can’t deter them from their quest. For our primary and secondary schools, however, the real question is how we optimize what most students learn, with competent teachers to take them there. Blending extensive data and focused personal stories, Amanda Ripley’s marvelous book suggests that we know more about good teaching and real learning than we may suppose.

Real learning means that graduates can “read, solve problems, and communicate what happened on their shift” (p. 5), and that’s for line workers who make the pies you get at McDonald’s. That American employer, and others, aren’t shifting jobs overseas only because of wages and benefits but often because they can’t find high school graduates who can do the work. “Better” jobs demand more; diesel mechanics must know geometry and physics, read blueprints and technical manuals, and understand percentages and ratios. Sales people have to comprehend engineering or chemistry or medicine (e.g. pharmaceutical reps) to communicate with their clients. Finance requires a command not only of markets and regulations but of financial analysis, statistics and probability. Ripley notes the extremely high recent correlation between nations’ educational accomplishments and economic growth, and America is slipping badly.

The data to my mind are irrefutable (and, to paraphrase a quote in the book, without the ability to understand and process complex data, in today’s world you’re just another schmuck with an opinion). In language and science we score poorly in relation to almost all other developed nations, but our mathematics outcomes are execrable—in the bottom five of around thirty nations. It’s not about money; we’re second in the world (!) in just one category, per-pupil expense. It’s not about students studying longer. True, Korea’s schooling sounds to me like an industrial-strength nightmare—long school days followed by homework followed by hours in costly private academies followed by more hours of homework. (Korea’s students, says Ripley, spend more time on schoolwork than American kids spend awake.) But Finnish students do less homework than Americans and have far more free time (with much less scheduling and supervision from their parents) while leading the world. Nor is it about the advantages of less diverse cultures or more prosperous families. Race and family background matter, says Ripley—but how much they matter varies greatly, and we’re just dreadful by this measure, too (poor kids in Poland are poorer than poor kids here but do much better in school). Conversely, Norway (with all the “advantages” of Finland and much higher spending) has fallen behind dramatically, now trailing us and all other nations among the fifteen with long-term data.

The heart of Ripley’s presentation lies in extended stories of three high-school students: Kim (from Oklahoma, who went to Finland for a school year), Tom (from Pennsylvania, to Poland), and Eric (from Minnesota, to Korea). She corresponded with them and traveled to interview them, their own and their exchange families, and the teachers and education administrators here and in the host communities. The stories and the data frame and interpret each other, clearly and effectively. America’s schools would do well to adopt “best practices” wherever we find them (as American companies do with their competitors), and I would suggest three benchmarks, from the Finns in particular.

First, we need very demanding requirements for teachers. In Finland it starts with admission to one of a handful of colleges for teacher training, with admission standards “on the order of MIT” and prestige comparable to admission to med school. Then come six years of training. Once the graduates begin teaching, they have much more accountability for results (national textbook standards and testing) but also much greater autonomy and flexibility in how they do their jobs (after all, their competence and commitment can be presumed). Second, schools, homes, and communities have high expectations for students. ALL students (“tracking” by “ability” turns out to be counter-productive and debilitating). Apart from clinical cognitive disorders, the hypothesis is that every kid can learn. The students see it happening, have a high estimate of themselves and each other (and they respect their teachers’ preparation and competence), and contribute peer pressure (and mutual encouragement) to the hopes their families and schools have for them. Third, every student is expected to—fail. Frequently, but not finally. Nearly everyone finishes high school. (We used to lead the world in graduation rates, but have dropped to around 20th, with a 20% dropout rate). Their diplomas demonstrate their fundamental competencies. But high standards and expectations mean that students have to be told when they’re not measuring up. “If the work is hard, routine failure is the only way to learn.” Then kids also learn to pick themselves (and each other) up, get help, dig in, and make it work. Praise and affirmation are effective only when they are “specific, authentic, and rare”.

I tremble to consider the cultural and political obstacles in our way. How can we get past our shibboleth (“hard-wired for inefficiency”, crossed purposes and compromised standards) of local control? How many of our public schools hire people more as coaches than teachers, with a Master’s in Phys. Ed. and (at best) an undergraduate minor in their teaching field? We do have some good teachers here, and Ripley has found a few of them; why can’t we learn from them as well as from other countries? In the book’s most moving story for me, an American primary student asks her teacher why he “gave” her an F in math, and he replies that an F was what she earned. Callous and harsh? Not as he works with her and believes in her, and she responds by doing the homework and forming a study group with other pupils. With a C as her year-end grade and a new sense of her own prowess and potential, she says to her teacher through her tears, “I cannot believe I did this.”
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 The idea is pretty good, and Amanda basically explains what happens in ... 6 février 2017
Par Bruno Spellanzon - Publié sur
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
The idea is pretty good, and Amanda basically explains what happens in 3 highly rated countries. However, I feel it misses a bit on suggestions on how to improve other places. Like, you learn about the finnish education system, and you realize its freaking awesome, but it misses on HOW to bring that to other countries realities. Even for the US, which is where the book is intended, it lacks ideas or suggestions on how to bring those finnish concepts into american classrooms.
All in all, it is really informative, and interesting, especially about South Korea where we think the system is incredible, and kids learn a lot and blah blah blah. But then, you read the book and see that their system is not good at all for the health of its students and population.
279 internautes sur 306 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Likely to challenge your assumptions about what factors contribute to real learning 14 août 2013
Par Kcorn - Publié sur
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
By her own admission, journalist Amanda Ripley used to go out of her way to avoid writing articles about education. She'd rather cover almost anything else. But after she was assigned a story on a controversial educator, she became intrigued. What types of education helped children become smarter? Did particular skills help them tackle learning challenges better?

During her research, Ripley happened to see a chart compiling half a century of student test scores and performance rankings, gathered from a variety of different countries and cultures. She was intrigued - and puzzled. The data in that chart (collected by economists Ludger Woessmann and Eric Hanushek) greatly changed her perspective and upended her assumptions about what children need to reach their learning potential.

The research revealed that in a handful of countries scattered across the world, kids seemed to be gaining critical learning skills, outpacing many other countries, including America (especially in math). From their earliest years, the students in these select areas learned effective and innovative ways to tackle reading, science, and math problems. Their skills also helped them master not only familiar but new information more quickly and easily.

What accounted for these differences over time? How on earth did Canada go from having a mediocre educational system to one with impressive results- even rivaling Japan? Why did a country without child poverty, Norway, end up with students who still received inadequate schooling? Why did American teenagers (even those attending elite schools) rank 18th in math compared to kids in New Zealand, Belgium, France, and other countries?

These questions are part of what Ripley calls "the mystery" and it is at the heart of this book: the reasons why some kids learn so much in some countries and so little in others. As part of her attempt to gain more insight into how a select group of countries excelled at educating their children, Ripley sought the help of three American teenagers - Kim, Eric, and Tom - who were sent to live and learn in "smarter" countries for a year. Much of this book is based on first-hand accounts of the teens' experiences while living and learning in another culture.Without them, Ripley notes, she "never would have glimpsed...the scenes that make it possible to understand why policy works or, more often misses the mark totally."

The three American students have very different backgrounds. There is Kim, who left her rural area of Sallisaw, Oklahoma and a relatively mediocre school system to travel to Finland. Eric attended a high school in Minnetonka, Minnesota which was regularly ranked among the top schools in America by Newsweek. He traveled to Busan, South Korea to experience the "Korean pressure cooker" of education there. Tom left behind a high school culture in Gettysburg,Pennsylvania, one which was focused on sports and the Future Farmers of America and traveled to Wroclaw, Poland.

I was fascinated by reading about these students' lives abroad and the challenges they faced when navigating different school systems and cultural traditions. Many of the descriptions are vivid, from Eric's sense of dread when he realized that Korean students attended school a staggering 12 hours a day to Tom's recollection of his first humiliating attempt at a math problem (in front of the class) in Poland.

But this book is more than a series of personal perspectives from three teens. There is also plenty of hard data interspersed between their anecdotes. This does make for a certain scattered quality to the book at times. A description of Tom's initial struggles with math in his Polish classroom leads into a long section on math education in the United States before coming back round to Tom as he picks up the chalk and attempts to solve a math equation. When Kim struggles to understand a Finnish novel, her teacher brings her a children's book which simplifies the plot details. This section is the jumping off point for contrasting Finnish teacher training with that in the United States before returning to Kim and her discussion with some classmates.

In spite of an occasionally bumpy flow, this book was still very engaging. It not only gave me a cross- cultural perspective but new insights into ways to help children become innovative and effective learners.
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Mostly informative, but misguided commentary 10 juillet 2017
Par Althier M. Lazar - Publié sur
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
Ripley does a fine job examining the sociological, economic, cultural, and educational factors that impact students' academic success across the globe. Her in-depth analysis makes the book well worth reading. I find it strange, though, that some of her statements are so irresponsible and unsubstantiated. She writes: "What did it mean, then, that respected U.S. education leaders and professors in teacher colleges were indoctrinating young teachers with the mindset that poverty trumped everything else? What did it mean if teachers were led to believe that they could only be expected to do so much, and that poverty was usually destiny." No ed. professor I know teaches this to future teachers. Based on my experience, ed. professors help teacher candidates understand the factors that shape students' lives and education in underserved communities. They teach candidates about students' cultural wealth and funds of knowledge as well as the structural/institutional factors that undermine students' opportunities. They teach them to see students' unlimited potential and to accept responsibility for teaching students. The ed. professors I know do NOT teach candidates that children in underserved communities can "only be expected to do so much." How absurd. Ripley should not get away with making such erroneous claims.
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