Sheer Drive Out Paces Innate Talent For Country Test Standings

A new political book by Amanda Ripley delves into why counties like Finland, South Korea, and Poland out preform U.S. students on tests.

“Other countries’ schools outperform ours by following a philosophy that is—or ought to be—very American: innate talent is less important than sheer drive.

Ripley reports that “rigor”—clear and high expectations shared by students and adults—is what drives the successful education systems in the three nations she studied, where standards are national and mandatory, as they are in most industrialized nations. Indeed, Poland, fairly new to the standards game, introduced them in the late 1990s and then leapfrogged the U.S. and other nations up the PISA ladder, despite higher-than-average levels of youth poverty than its OECD peers. Indeed, Ripley concludes, it is America’s lack of high, shared expectations for students that is “the most glaring problem with America’s fragmented [education] system.”

As Ripley rightly points out, the intensity of education in countries like South Korea puts immense stress on students, and some collapse under its weight.”

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