The Huffington Post:
In her new, provocatively titled book, The Smartest Kids in the World, journalist Amanda Ripley tells the story of Kim, a 15-year-old Oklahoma girl who has the good fortune to spend a year going to school in Pietarsaari, on Finland’s west coast. Kim is fortunate because she has landed quite by chance in a public school system that Ripley identifies as one of the world’s best, a model of international academic performance year in and year out.
Ripley reports on Kim’s experience, and on the lives of her Finnish classmates, as she tries to identify the reasons for Finnish kids’ superior academic performance. (She reports on exchange students in Poland and South Korea as well.) Not surprisingly, these influences are varied and complex, but they basically come down to a “culture of rigor” that is notably lacking in poorer performing schools, including many in the U.S. Teachers make up an elite profession in Finland, where they are trained at the finest universities, and these teachers somehow convey to their students that learning is a serious and worthwhile business.
When they crunched all the data together, the results were clear and strong. As reported in an article to appear in the journal Psychological Science, each kind of personal support — from parents, teachers and peers — uniquely affected task focus later on. The more authoritative a child’s parents were, the more positive the teacher’s feeling were, and the more accepted a child was by friends — all three of these relationships produced kids who were motivated and focused and persistent in their classroom work. And this attitude led in turn to higher academic performance in fourth grade.
Read the whole story: The Huffington Post