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The Smartest Kids in the World

And How They Got That Way

By Amanda Ripley
16-minute read
Audio available
The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley

The Smartest Kids in the World takes a look at why South Korea, Finland and Poland seem to have the brightest school children and best education systems in the world. At the same time, problems and potential solutions in the US education system are examined.

  • Anyone interested in how to provide the best possible education for their children
  • Teachers, parents, coaches and anyone in the position to influence education policy
  • Anyone interested in how the education systems of different countries stack up against each other

Amanda Ripley is an author and journalist who writes for Time Magazine and The Atlantic. Her previous book is the highly acclaimed The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes.

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The Smartest Kids in the World

And How They Got That Way

By Amanda Ripley
  • Read in 16 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 10 key ideas
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The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley
Synopsis

The Smartest Kids in the World takes a look at why South Korea, Finland and Poland seem to have the brightest school children and best education systems in the world. At the same time, problems and potential solutions in the US education system are examined.

Key idea 1 of 10

The PISA test was a new kind of critical thinking test for comparing nations’ education programs.

Everyone knows that a nation’s future depends on its children and on the education bestowed upon them. This is why countries across the globe have always been interested in comparing their schools and education systems.

In 2000 a new kind of test was introduced  for this purpose: PISA.

Developed by the OECD, this test was meant to measure 15-year-old school pupils’ abilities in three areas: reading, math and science. But PISA differed from previous tests in that it was specifically designed to test students’ critical thinking abilities rather than what they had learned by heart in the classroom.

For example, students were not required to remember math formulas themselves, but were provided with them in the test. They also had to interpret and analyze new information from, for example, graphs and written texts, and then use that information to solve novel kinds of problems they had not encountered in the classroom.

These kinds of questions were meant to measure the students’ problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.

Why?

Because these skills were deemed to be the most important for students if they were to thrive in the demanding, modern workplace.

Indeed, this notion has been borne out by later data: economists have found a near linear correlation between the PISA scores and the long-term economic growth of a nation.

It seems then that better critical-thinking skills translate directly to increased productivity. The obvious knock-on effect of a productive workforce is that it attracts companies seeking good employees, thus attracting investments and further boosting economic growth in turn.

No wonder all eyes are on this new test.

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