A new book by American journalist Amanda Ripley looks at highly reputed education systems in the world. Her findings on what makes these schools successful may be a surprise to many. In an article in the Globe and Mail, they condense the lessons learned form Ripley’s research into seven key points. We would like to give Intelligent Management’s take on those points.
1) Mathematics is vital.
There is no doubt that a strong grounding in mathematics unlocks many doors for students. At the most basic level, without it they will struggle to decipher much of the increasing nonsense that is fed daily to the masses. Beyond this, a lack of mathematical ability will preclude many future choices, even to able students.
2) Teachers should be highly prized.
Young people are the greatest resource any nation possesses and we need to invest in them. They are the future of industry, science, the arts, and how all this is governed democratically. The quality of our and their future is entirely in their hands. Consequently, quality education is the only way to ensure a quality future. While many good teachers may consider teaching a vocation, that is no reason for society to take advantage of their good will. In order to attract and keep talented teachers, good salaries, career paths and prestige are essential.
3) Classroom technology is a waste of money
This is excellent news. More investment can be made in human resources (and less manipulation will be possible from technology giants.)
4) School should be about school
Some disagreement at Intelligent Management here. Our roots are firmly European. Just as in the highly successful system in Finland, extra curricular activities are not part of the Italian system but very much part of the UK system. However, when it comes to measuring the ability of students to sit on a chair and study hard, in our experience the Italians win over the Brits.
5) Extra help is widely available
This goes in the direction of personalized education and makes complete sense. Everyone has different learning patterns, and a minimum of allowance has to be made for this. Kudos to Finland where they seem to be able to offer this at no extra cost within the school itself.
6) Critical thinking is emphasized.
Essays preferred to multiple choice? Coming from Europe, this is an obvious choice. Moreover, in Italy they study philosophy at high school level, exposing students to sophisticated reasoning at an early age. At Intelligent Management, we base much of our work on critical thinking in organizations through a precise set of Thinking Process Tools. Thinking can always be improved. This is a lifetime learning activity.
7) No system is perfect
Fair enough. But that is no excuse for short-changing our students. We have the science and the know-how to be able to continuously improve any education system. What is essential is the political willingness to make it happen. Our reality has never been as complex as it is today. Education is key if people are to be able to grow and contribute within that complexity. If we want to promote a fair society where we really tap into and develop the human potential our nations possess, then all of us, parents or not, should think long and hard about the kind of schools we want, and make sure we elect the people who can make those schools happen.