The Smartest Kids in the World

And How They Got That Way

Ripley, Amanda

Book - 2013
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
The Smartest Kids in the World
In a handful of nations, virtually all children are learning to make complex arguments and solve problems they've never seen before. They are learning to think, in other words, and to thrive in the modern economy. What is it like to be a child in the world's new education superpowers? In a global quest to find answers for our own children, author and Time magazine journalist Amanda Ripley follows three Americans embedded in Finland, South Korea, and Poland for one year. Their stories, along with groundbreaking research into learning in other cultures, reveal a pattern of startling transformation: none of these countries had many "smart" kids a few decades ago. Things had changed. Teaching had become more rigorous; parents had focused on things that mattered; and children had bought into the promise of education.--From publisher description.

Publisher: New York :, Simon & Schuster,, 2013
ISBN: 9781451654424
Characteristics: 306 pages : map ; 24 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Sep 15, 2014
  • tlc1of3 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Well written and engaging, Ripley takes this complex hot topic and organizes it into insightful facts and perspectives, and above all gives practical advice for those interested in improving education.

Sep 01, 2014
  • chapeld rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

I liked Amanda Ripley's previous book "The Unthinkable," and although this book had an interesting journalistic approach, I preferred her first book and its gripping stories better. Educational philosophies and the politics of who controls public education seem hopelessly more complex than any one book could reasonably tackle. Nevertheless, her methods of examining educational systems outside of the USA is smart. I particularly liked her first appendix which gives tips on what to look for in a school. The book has a macro view, so having something concrete that a reader could immediately apply was a relief from the slowness of any real change readers might try to influence with our education system.

Aug 02, 2014
  • eggomaniac rated this: 2.5 stars out of 5.

was enjoying the book until I got to Pressure Cooker. states that 1/3 of Korean students sleep in class. The S. Koreans I talked to about this claim, only laughed. They had no memory or experience with this false notion. Quote, [sometimes a strange student will sleep in class, but any teacher would wake them up, right away] I like the author's writing style, so I might read the rest of the book. hard to take, seriously tho

Jun 28, 2014
  • A_Traveler_Like_Jack rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

An absolute must read for every educator in Canada.

May 29, 2014

Good book. Every teacher should read it to realize how they are getting away from the good education in North America (U.S.A. and Canada). Students in our schools have not idea why they are there and the system has been created that way to work like that and have entrance level works, working class and low wages. The equation is low education , low expectations, easy jobs, low wages, high debts ......... Where are we going, please ?

Feb 25, 2014
  • Cynthia_N rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I picked up this book thinking I would just flip through it but I was instantly intrigued with the topic, the comparisons, and the writing. Ripley does a great job of using the experiences of United States foreign exchange students to compare and contrast the educations systems of different high performing countries. This book makes you think and gives you hope that change in the education system is necessary and possible. Highly recommended!

Jan 17, 2014
  • Jane60201 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

A very readable and thoughtful book about a vexing problem.

Nov 12, 2013
  • andreas1111 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Looks at high performing education systems around the world in a pretty non-ideological way. Well worth a read if you are interested in learning more about what works around the world

Oct 24, 2013
  • ksoles rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

According to investigative journalist Amanda Ripley’s research, most American students, even those from the top private and public school districts, cannot analyze, synthesize and form their own opinions about the material they study. But why? "The Smartest Kids in the World" attempts to answer this question in a fascinating and brilliant comparison of the US to the homes of three of the most successful education systems in the world: Finland, Poland and South Korea. Drawing on the expertise of US exchange students, Ripley outlines the major reforms and economic imperatives that brought about educational changes in these countries and discusses the day-to-day ramifications of them.

Impeccably researched and engaging, the book comes alive through Kim, Tom and Eric. Kim finds out that gaining admission to a teacher training program in Finland equates to getting into MIT and revels in the freedom teenagers have to manage their time. Eric astonishingly witnesses Korean students, whose school day routinely runs 12-15 hours, sleeping in class on their own pillows. Tom listens to Polish students argue about philosophy in a coffeehouse and finds that, to them, some degree of failure is normal and acceptable. These insider observations provide amusement and illumination, highlighting the values and practices that these countries have cultivated to help their kids succeed.

Finally, Ripley addresses the roles played by child poverty, multiculturalism, technology, extracurricular activities and parental involvement in successful education. The book ends on a positive note, asserting that any education system can reform as long as policymakers, teachers and students can tolerate feeling uncomfortable in the process.

Sep 29, 2013
  • Rock_Shadow rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Very interesting book. It shows why Finnish education works, how Polish education made huge leaps forward, and how fascinating Korean school system is (Korean kids study in school till afternoon, and in after-school learning centers till late night, and other fascinating information). The American school system has the most technology, but education aimed at well below children's capacity for learning. There is an interesting comparison of textbooks between the successful systems and the American school system, and, finally, between running schools under strict supervision due to lack of faith in teachers, compared to running the schools with trust in teachers.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add a Notice

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Find it at SMCL