Just after I wrote my last entry regarding STEM education and critical thinking, I stumbled upon an article in The Economist titled, “Best and brightest… Only a few countries are teaching children how to think.” The article summarized Amanda Ripley’s new book, The Smartest Kids in the World: And how they Got That Way. I was absolutely amazed with the first paragraph in the article describing an American company forced to open factories abroad due to the lack of skilled workers in the U.S.
"…the skills [needed] to fill even [the] most basic factory jobs require workers to think critically. Graduates of local schools are often unable to read or do simple maths."
Wow, this was so similar to what I had been writing about earlier that I picked up my iPad and ordered the book.
I began to read and couldn’t put the book down. The author follows three foreign exchange students to Poland, Finland, and North Korea as she investigates the successes and failures of these educational systems. Her description of Finland’s educational reform in the 1970’s parallels the reform efforts taking place in America’s educational system today, and her analysis of their educational history, policy, and culture reveal two key factors essential to educational reform: academic standards and teacher quality. Not only that, but the largest contributing factor for success was not the amount of money spent on technology in the classroom nor student engagement, but “rigor”—clear and high expectations shared by students, parents, teachers, administrators.
"To give our kids the kind of education they deserve we must first agree that rigor matters most of all; that school exists to help kids learn to think, to work hard, and yes, to fail. That is the core consensus that makes everything else possible."
Ripley does an outstanding job of illustrating the need for critical thinking and the implementation of rigor into our school system. I highly recommend this book especially to educators and parents, and I believe that the American educational system is on the right path as we adopt the common core standards. (To this, I will speak more in my next entry.)