The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way

This weekend, I was engrossed in the book, The Smartest Kids is the World: and how they got that way by Amanda Ripley. This book compares education system of America, Finland, Poland and South Korea. I would not want to put my child through the education system of South Korea at all because so much pressure on a kid doesn’t feel right. However, Finland seems to have a good balance and its education system seems to be the envy of the world. However, I live in America and I feel there are pros and cons in the current system just like any other place in the world. We, teachers and parents, have to make the best of it for our kids under the given circumstance.

I am so glad to have come across this book just before Kabir starts 3rd grade. Anyone who cares about education, teacher or parent, must read this book. I learnt quite a few things.

Lesson 1: Rigor is important. Discipline and hard work are two important qualities that we need to instill in kids as early as possible and all throughout their childhood. I have seen the benefits of rigor. In Indian schools, we don’t lack rigor and that is why when I studied at University of North Alabama, it was literally a cakewalk. If we can create young adults who don’t shy from hard work and are disciplined to get things done in a timely fashion, we will surely create a productive and happy generation. Nothing can give more satisfaction than hard work. However, there should be a balance between hard work and play. There is a fine line and it’s very easy to cross this line and become either a workaholic or an idler.

Lesson 2: Nothing is more important than education! It was heart breaking to learn that during recession, there are jobs that can’t be filled because majority don’t have the required qualifications in US. The world has become smaller and kids need to compete with the rest of the world. So, they need to work hard and get smarter. We cannot compare our generation with the next generation. What was good enough for our times is not good enough for now! Even if you are all set to be an athlete or artist, the education is very important and it must not suffer at any cost.

Lesson 3: Everyone can be good in Math with practice. In School, I remember teachers telling us that the only way to get good in Math is by practice. However, I don’t think I registered it until I read this book. I had the notion that you either are good in it or not and there’s not much you can do about it. There is a fatal surrender with respect to Math in this notion. With introspection, I have to confess that I am wrong! When I practiced, I got it and loved it. The better I got in it the less I was scared of it. It’s only when I couldn’t get help to understand the concept or when I avoided it that I made my Math problems bigger than life.

Lesson 4: Lessons on failure during childhood is vital. It is counter productive to protect our children from failures during childhood. Failures during childhood don’t have as big a consequence as during adulthood. It is better to let them try, fail and learn from it. Also, they are stronger than we think. With love and care, failure is not going to lower their self-esteem but teach them to overcome it.

Also, this book has a good list of how to spot a good school.   I really enjoyed this book. I got it from the library but it’s so good that I am going to order a copy of this book. It’s worth having this book in my bookshelf at home!


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