Nowadays, millions of people cannot live without education. Education helps to develop their professional and personal skills and becomes a significant criterion to be hired and have the desired jobs. However, not all people are actually fascinated by the topic of education. For example, during several years, an American journalist and writer Amanda Ripley avoided writing about education and believed that it was a soft theme compared to terrorism, health, or disasters.
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However, when she was asked to discuss the contributions of a new leader in one of the Washington schools, she became rather engaged in her research on the existing variety of education systems, approaches, and outcomes. The result of her investigations was the creation of a book The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got that Way. Ripley’s book is not only an opportunity to compare the education systems of the United States, South Korea, Poland, and Finland, but also a good chance to understand the impact of such issues as poverty, teaching quality, and parental rigor on children and their development.
Despite numerous reforms and academic improvements observed in the American education system or in any other country, it is wrong to neglect the fact that child poverty remains one of the most significant challenges for many families. With its multiple positive and negative characteristics, a learning process aims at one goal – to provide children with knowledge for free. Though the public education system is usually funded through the taxes in the USA, many families have a chance to know a real price of the American education. As a result, parents may use their low social statuses and incomes as the reasons for not to provide their children with higher education.
Americans find it normal to say that they do not have enough money to provide their children with additional academic opportunities. At the same time, they can take another step, think about the alternatives, and use reforms (Zakar 169). If the Americans lack confidence and experience, they are free to observe the cases of other countries.
Ripley offers to look at the conditions under which the children from different countries have to live. For example, in the USA, 20% of children are defined as poor, and, in Finland, only 6% of child poverty is observed (Ripley 6). However, in Poland, more than one million children live in poverty, and Korean children have to deal with poverty problems day by day. Instead of waiting for someone to fix poverty in these countries, the citizens make decisions to improve their education systems and continue developing even under poverty epidemic (Ripley 64). In other words, instead of complaining that poverty is the challenge of higher education, it may be considered as a good motivational factor for children, as well as for their parents and teachers.
A learning process can be of different forms and lead to a number of outcomes depending on teachers’ involvement and understanding of their tasks. The quality of teaching is an important factor in the education system of any country. Still, Ripley, as well as many other writers and researchers, believes that the quality of teachers’ preparation plays an important role in education, and it varies wildly in the United States and around the globe (86).
For example, compared to the United States, in Finland, much attention is paid to teacher training programs and the selection of appropriate people (Andere 12). At the same time, it is wrong to neglect the fact that Poland is not on the list of the countries where the selection of teachers is as crucial as in Finland or Germany. Andere gives the explanation to this point as well, stating that teaching quality should not be based on training or teachers’ knowledge (13). Such factors as “teacher-student relations” or teachers’ interest in students’ well-being have to be underlined (Andere 13). Therefore, the quality of teaching is far from some academic limitations, tests, and the presentation of new material.
There are many ways of how to improve the quality of teaching in the United States, using the examples offered by Korea, Finland, and Poland. Certification of teachers should not be on paper only. It may be observed through lesson designs, integration of material from different subjects, and, what is more important, the ability of a teacher to pretend to be a student (Ripley 87). Such attitudes can raise students’ awareness of what they should learn and lead to positive results in classroom participation.
Despite the belief that students cannot identify true intentions of their teachers during a learning process, they can feel that they are cheated or mislead. Teachers may be trained and improve their knowledge regularly, but they should never forget that they do everything not for themselves but for children they have to cooperate in classrooms.
Finally, the development of the education system of the United States, as well as Poland, Finland, and Korea, depends on how well parents are informed about the requirements and ready to cooperate with teachers, the government, and other facilities. Though parents may know nothing about education or the development of children’s academic skills, they can make their contributions through regular talks and discussions with tutors. Without being aware of how crucial their role in the education system is, parents may become helpful sources of information.
They may share opinions about schools’ weaknesses or strengths, demonstrate their involvement or unwillingness to cooperate, and tell more about the needs of their children (Ripley 213). Parents’ examples, education, and guidance can influence students’ perception of an academic process (Andere 4). Parents usually support the work of schools and demonstrate a high level of involvement in all four countries under discussion. The strictness of Finnish parents, the faith of Polish parents, and high expectations of Korean parents are the main lessons that can be adopted by the United States to the improvement of its education system.
In general, the improvement of the education system is a challenging task for any country. Some people are ready to consider the examples and investigate own opportunities. Sometimes, it is better to make personal mistakes in order to come to a certain conclusion. In the United States, the education system is not perfect. However, as Ripley’s investigation shows, it is not the worst in the world. Some American families may face a problem of low incomes and the inability to choose a college regarding the interests and abilities of children.
However, Polish, as well as Korean, families may face the same problem, and their decision is not to despair or complain, but to fight and prove equality. Someone may think that the system of education in Finland is close to being perfect due to high standards of teaching quality and the presence of high-professional training programs to strive for. The Smartest Kids in the World shows that each country has its strong and weak aspects of the education system. American high schools have enough space to be developed and improved, and Ripley offers a good option to be followed.
Andere, Eduardo. “Are Teachers Crucial for Academic Achievement? Finland Educational Success in a Comparative Perspective.” Education Policy Analysis Archives, vol. 23, no. 39, 2015, pp. 1-27. Web.
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Ripley, Amanda. The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got that Way. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2013.
Zakar, Csilla. “The Smartest Kids in the World.” Financial and Economic Review, vol. 14, no. 3, 2015, pp. 168-169.