Education standards: Best and brightest

Education standards: Best and brightest | The Economist
Poland has made some dramatic gains in education in the past decade. Before 2000 only half of the country’s rural adults would finish primary school. Yet international rankings now put the country’s students well ahead of America’s in science and maths (the strongest predictor of future earnings), even as the country spends far less per pupil. What is Poland doing right? And what is America doing wrong? Amanda Ripley, an American journalist, seeks to answer such questions in “The Smartest Kids in the World”, her fine new book about the schools that are working around the globe.

...Ms Ripley sees throughout her tour of “the smart-kid countries”. Children succeed in classrooms where they are expected to succeed. Schools work best when they operate with a clarity of mission: as places to help students master complex academic material (not as sites dedicated to excellence in sport, she hastens to add). When teachers demand rigorous work, students often rise to the occasion, whereas tracking students at different cognitive levels tends to “diminish learning and boost inequality”. Low expectations are often duly rewarded.

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