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Secondary school teacher and education consultant Lucy Crehan was frustrated with ever-changing government policies on education; dissatisfied with a system that prioritised test scores over the promotion of creative thinking; and disheartened that the interests of children had become irrelevant. And yet, politicians and administrators consistently told her that this was ho Secondary school teacher and education consultant Lucy Crehan was frustrated with ever-changing government policies on education; dissatisfied with a system that prioritised test scores over the promotion of creative thinking; and disheartened that the interests of children had become irrelevant. And yet, politicians and administrators consistently told her that this was how the world’s ‘top performing’ school systems operated. Curious to discover how they could operate in the same way but perform so much better in Maths, Reading and Science, Lucy dug deeper and was shocked by what she found: the politicians and administrators were wrong. The ‘top performing’ schools were designing education in completely different ways from the UK and from each other, and yet, despite their differences, they were all getting top marks. Determined to find answers she couldn’t get from reports and graphs, Lucy set off on a journey around the globe to see these schools and students for herself. Cleverlands is the story of her journey through Finland, Canada, Japan, China and Singapore – five countries regularly at the top of the education charts. She spent three weeks immersed in classrooms in each country – living with teachers, listening to parents, teaching, watching and asking questions. The result is a guided tour of the world’s best educational systems and a reflection on what success in the UK might look like in light of these varying possibilities… not just what our politicians would have us believe.


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Secondary school teacher and education consultant Lucy Crehan was frustrated with ever-changing government policies on education; dissatisfied with a system that prioritised test scores over the promotion of creative thinking; and disheartened that the interests of children had become irrelevant. And yet, politicians and administrators consistently told her that this was ho Secondary school teacher and education consultant Lucy Crehan was frustrated with ever-changing government policies on education; dissatisfied with a system that prioritised test scores over the promotion of creative thinking; and disheartened that the interests of children had become irrelevant. And yet, politicians and administrators consistently told her that this was how the world’s ‘top performing’ school systems operated. Curious to discover how they could operate in the same way but perform so much better in Maths, Reading and Science, Lucy dug deeper and was shocked by what she found: the politicians and administrators were wrong. The ‘top performing’ schools were designing education in completely different ways from the UK and from each other, and yet, despite their differences, they were all getting top marks. Determined to find answers she couldn’t get from reports and graphs, Lucy set off on a journey around the globe to see these schools and students for herself. Cleverlands is the story of her journey through Finland, Canada, Japan, China and Singapore – five countries regularly at the top of the education charts. She spent three weeks immersed in classrooms in each country – living with teachers, listening to parents, teaching, watching and asking questions. The result is a guided tour of the world’s best educational systems and a reflection on what success in the UK might look like in light of these varying possibilities… not just what our politicians would have us believe.

30 review for Cleverlands: The secrets behind the success of the world's education superpowers

  1. 4 out of 5

    Katia N

    This book is written by the young, brave and daring UK teacher, who did not want to take for granted what the politicians are telling us about education. So she decided to find out for herself and visited 5 countries scoring high in PISA tests (Finland, Canada, Singapore, Shangai (not the country, i know) and Japan). She did not want to go through the official channels, in order her study to be more representative. So she planned and organised her visits through internet. The result is well resea This book is written by the young, brave and daring UK teacher, who did not want to take for granted what the politicians are telling us about education. So she decided to find out for herself and visited 5 countries scoring high in PISA tests (Finland, Canada, Singapore, Shangai (not the country, i know) and Japan). She did not want to go through the official channels, in order her study to be more representative. So she planned and organised her visits through internet. The result is well researched, well written book summarising what she has learned. Apart from her experience in each separate country, she has written a chapter about the "best practice" policies in education based upon her findings. In one sentence, they are: 1) no selection by ability (streaming setting etc) until 15 or older; 2) high expectations of all kids irrespective of perceived abilities reflected in the required achievement standards; 3) respect and constant professional development to teachers. This sounds hardly revelatory, but it seems neither the UK nor the US manage to get it right. The book is much more than this containing lots of her anecdotes and observations of the cultural differences. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in education or has a stake in the system.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Athan Tolis

    I have two kids in early primary school here in London and I take their education seriously. My primary and secondary education was in the Greek system, which does not stream till you turn 15 and even then does not stream for ability, merely for specialization. So I find it rather unsettling that the English system separates my kids out from their peers by ability at such a tender age. What am I meant to do? Prepare them extra, so they will make it to the higher group and feel smarter / get bett I have two kids in early primary school here in London and I take their education seriously. My primary and secondary education was in the Greek system, which does not stream till you turn 15 and even then does not stream for ability, merely for specialization. So I find it rather unsettling that the English system separates my kids out from their peers by ability at such a tender age. What am I meant to do? Prepare them extra, so they will make it to the higher group and feel smarter / get better teaching / be challenged by better peers? Or let them be kids and play and have a normal childhood? What if, horror of horrors, I prepare them extra and they fail to meet the higher standard regardless? And I was more than a little weirded out when the school called us in last year to inform us that my son’s class was being specially prepared for a test on which the school itself would be evaluated. We were supposed to prepare them for the sake of the school’s status (perhaps even funding?), but also not tell them they would be tested, lest this ended up having an impact on their attitude. You could tell the teachers were terrified, that’s for sure. Author Lucy Crehan, a teacher in the English system, must have been confronting similar dilemmas when she decided she wanted to explore what works in other countries. So she visited five countries that score high on the PISA test to see how they go about educating the young. Her tour starts in Finland, where kids don’t go to school till they’re seven, but proceed to catch up with the world by the time they are fifteen years old and then comfortably sail past the average, all in the absence of any type of streaming of the students or official testing and supervision of the schools. What seems to do the trick for them is five (count’em) years of education for their teachers. Educators in Finland have a sense of entitlement that comes from belonging to a respected profession, a position accorded to educators by Finnish history. They additionally benefit from a rather uniform student body and a strong emphasis on discussion among teachers about the lessons they will give, supported by continued education and time dedicated to the discussion of the curriculum and the teaching methods. From Finland, the author goes to Japan, where the primary role of the school is to instill traditional Japanese values in the students. The classrooms are not heated, so the students must learn “gaman” (Japanese for “saintly patience in the face of uncalled-for suffering,” it seems) and students are never praised or punished individually. You get an answer right, the whole class is congratulated. You mess up, everybody suffers alongside you. Streaming is, most obviously, out of the question. Rote memorization is anything but! Primary school is all play, but once you hit junior high your life ends, as you get buried under homework. And you’d better do well, as your future (including who you will marry) is determined by what school you’ll get into. The teachers must work very hard too. They specialize in improving teaching methods and take great pride in developing them to perfection. In their efforts, they are supported by the mothers of the pupils, who are pretty much obliged to put in hours of work every single day, helping out their offspring with schoolwork. In Japan, a career is not a realistic option for a mother who wants her kids to do well in school. Flip side is that all the kids get a strong and broad education, both in academics and in how to fit in Japanese society. Finally, the author admits that alongside this very egalitarian and well-thought-out system operates a semi-mandatory system of private cram schools, juku, that are attended by all students who plan to do well on state examinations. Next stop is Singapore, where the emphasis is on identifying and focusing on the development of the smart kids. Exams in Singapore are all graded on a curve, not against the attainment of specific educational goals. By the time the kids are 12 the system has arrived at a verdict for every student, with hardly any room for a pupil who’s been selected for vocational training to ever make it to university. Funny thing is that upon graduation the “less gifted” students (the ones who have been selected out) reach a level of educational achievement that places them far above their peers in other countries. Singapore, it seems, pulls everybody up, but at the price of extreme prejudice and unconscionable pressure, including on the families. Singapore, moreover, takes the education of its teachers extremely seriously, offering them three separate career paths and showering them in (mandatory) further education. Excellence is state-mandated and a matter of national importance. In many ways, China (or Shanghai, rather, as this is where the author spent her time) is the polar opposite. Students are never streamed and are praised exclusively for effort. The thinking in China is that you can “study yourself smart” and that’s what people do. Classes are enormous (50 kids to a class) but the teachers somehow find the time to send multiple text messages per day to the parents, informing them about any work that was not done right! The emphasis is not on creativity. It’s on memorization and on learning the correct methods. A further similarity with Japan is that the curriculum is not only deep, but also broad. The culmination of the secondary school experience is the gaokao, the thousand-year-old tradition that is the end-of-school examination that determines where you will end up in university and in life. Because attendance of a good school is paramount, connections (guanxii) are necessary, both to dance around the huku (the system that effectively separates the rich from the poor parts of the country) and to land in the good schools in the big cities. The most important thing to take away from China is that education is a duty the student has to family. In turn, the family will move heaven and earth to help its offspring in their educational endeavors. Last stop on the tour is Canada, a country that places below the first four in the PISA tests, but must teach a much more diverse student body. The author does not hide that it’s her favorite of the five (p. 235). In common with all but Singapore, Canada does not stream its students. Neither does it ever leave a child behind who can’t handle the work on its own. The motivational hit from staying behind one’s peers is too high a mountain to climb for any potential stragglers; it’s better if the school allocates the necessary resources to keep classes intact. Students are forced to participate in group activities, which enforce the sense of belonging to a class and a school. Expectations are set both for all pupils and for all schools. Same as for the students, schools that are struggling do not see their resources cut. To the contrary, they are showered with the necessary resources to keep up with their expectations. And there you have it! But Lucy Crehan does not leave it there. She distills her tour of the “Cleverlands” into five principles: • Get children ready for formal learning • Design curricula concepts for mastery (and context for motivation) • Support children to take on challenges, rather than make concessions • Treat teachers as professionals • Combine school accountability with school support (rather than sanctions) The thing I most liked about reading Cleverlands is that it’s a book with a soul. You can read my summary above and all you really have is the bones of her account, but you’re still missing the meat. What obsesses the author most is how we can create individuals who are better prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century. And that is what she talks about with you as she takes you along on her tour. The other thing is she’s very clearly super young and impressionable. You’re doing something here too, you’re escorting a young girl on her discovery tour. It’s fun!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Coenraad

    Lucy Crehan has travelled, researched and thought deeply to produce this books about five education systems that fare well in international comparative testing. But more importantly: she writes in such an accessible way that just about any interested reader will be able to follow her arguments and conclusions. This book should be read widely. Lucy Crehan se verslag oor vyf toppresterende onderwysstelsels is duidelik gebaseer op deeglike navorsing, en word tegelyk só toeganklik geskryf en aangebie Lucy Crehan has travelled, researched and thought deeply to produce this books about five education systems that fare well in international comparative testing. But more importantly: she writes in such an accessible way that just about any interested reader will be able to follow her arguments and conclusions. This book should be read widely. Lucy Crehan se verslag oor vyf toppresterende onderwysstelsels is duidelik gebaseer op deeglike navorsing, en word tegelyk só toeganklik geskryf en aangebied dat dit baie vlot lees. Hierdie prestasie verdien om wyd gelees te word.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lisajean

    I want my kids to go to school in Finland! This is a great book, although a frustrating one, because it makes me realize how far the US is from implementing some of these best practices. I have great confidence that Crehan is correct in the best practices she identifies, because her approach is to balance personal observation – visiting schools, talking to principals, teachers, parents, and students, and spending time in the country to get a sense of its national culture – with hard data and a th I want my kids to go to school in Finland! This is a great book, although a frustrating one, because it makes me realize how far the US is from implementing some of these best practices. I have great confidence that Crehan is correct in the best practices she identifies, because her approach is to balance personal observation – visiting schools, talking to principals, teachers, parents, and students, and spending time in the country to get a sense of its national culture – with hard data and a thorough review of the relevant educational research. Furthermore, although the countries she visits are those that have performed consistently well on the Programme for International Student Assessment test, she does not consider the test results alone as proof that their schools are top-performing. Instead, she considers the equity of the results, data about student happiness and interest in school, and general reflections on the values that the educational programs instill. So, what are the takeaways and what do we in the US need to do to improve? 1. Get Children Ready for Formal Learning Enhance children’s social and preacademic skills through rich environments and playful learning before age six, rather than requiring specific academic outcomes from them. Take the time early on to teach children the routines. Give children (and teachers) a 10-15 minute break between each lesson. Resource schools with access to professionals who can address children’s non-academic needs. 2. Design Curricula Concepts for Mastery (and Context for Motivation) A good national/provincial curriculum should be: Minimal – Focusing on fewer topics, but in greater depth. High-level – Clear on what concepts and skills are requires, without prescribing context or pedagogy. Ordered – Organizing concepts in a logical order, based on research into how children learn. 3. Support Children to Take on Challenges, Rather than Making Concessions Delay selecting children into different schools based on ability until age 15 or 16. Teach children in mixed-ability classes until 15 or 16. Provide small, flexible group support from qualified professionals before/during/after lessons. 4. Treat Teachers as Professionals Require prospective teachers to undergo a rigorous teacher training programme of at least a year, which is recognized by a professional body and includes the study of pedagogical content knowledge. Ensure newly-qualified teachers have a reduced teaching load, and time with a dedicated mentor who also has a reduced teaching load. Encourage teachers to plan and evaluate lessons in small teams, so that all teachers are pedagogically supported and learn from one another. 5. Combine School Accountability with School Support (Rather Than Sanctions) Monitor school performance at a local or national level using school-level data or irregular national assessments. Make use of or create a network of successful former school leaders, to visit schools regularly and provide practicing school leaders with advice, support and connections. Incentivize demonstrably good teachers and middle leaders to work in struggling schools, and provide pedagogical leadership to other staff. These takeaways seem both encouragingly simple and maddeningly impossible, in that it sounds so obvious that we want teachers to be well-trained and delivering a research-backed curriculum, we want to hold all students to high academic standards and give them professional support when they aren’t meeting those standards, and we want to put the best teachers in the most challenging schools. And yet, we’re pretty far from those goals, and in some ways, such as increasing reliance on Teach for America to fill the ranks of urban schools, actively moving away from them. We have parents competing to get their kids into the most rigorous preschools, despite evidence that gains of learning to read early evaporate by the time kids are through elementary school. Instead, delaying the start of academic learning could actually be a huge step towards reducing the performance gap between boys and girls, since boys mature later and need more time to be ready for school. The point about instituting a national curriculum was interesting, because my first reaction was strongly negative. I’ve seen too many pre-fab unit and lesson plans that were truly terrible and seem to be designed to take the teacher out of the equation entirely. However, teachers in the schools that Crehan visited all said that they felt like they had a great deal of autonomy in the classroom. The key details here are that focusing on fewer topics gives teachers the time to include additional topics based on their and students’ interests. Plus, having a national curriculum leads to high-quality textbooks that include materials for lesson planning that are based on tried and true pedagogical strategies. Teachers had support if they wanted it but weren't mandated to follow any particular strategy. I find it mind-boggling how susceptible the education world is to trends and fads – a generous interpretation would be that we’re so eager to help the kids, that we want to try new strategies and hope they work. A less generous interpretation is that we’re being sold new approaches by organizations and authors eager to make a buck and we’ve somehow decided that we’re ok experimenting on students without first running small-scale, rigorous studies to show that the new approach actually works. An example of this is project-based learning or discovery learning. As Crehan mentions, widespread adoption of this approach may actually explain Canada’s declining scores in math. It might feel good to give kids more control of the classroom and more real-world, hands-on experience, but they just can’t make use of that experience unless they have a firm grasp of the fundamentals first and a teacher who’s been trained not just in math, but in the nuances of teaching math. The third point is actually what we’re doing best on in the US, as most schools have moved away from tracking students at a young age. They do still set students into different level classes, but this typically doesn’t happen until 9th or 10th grade and a student can be in a low level math class but a high level English class, for example. Also, schools are moving towards full-inclusion models, where students with special needs or English language learners are in the same class as everyone else and receive additional support as needed outside of class. That sounds great, but in practice, we still have a long way to go. My first year as a teacher, I was responsible for teaching an English support class to help students catch up to their peers. I had zero support in planning what to teach, had absolutely no idea about pedagogical strategies (I did a program similar to Teach for America. Mea culpa.), and in general did little more than help kids with their homework. This is all too common, and a stark contrast to Finland, for example, where support teachers actually have more training that gen-ed teachers. That connects to the fourth point, perhaps the one that worries me most. We do have rigorous teacher training programs in the US, but we seem to be moving away from them. More and more, students in the highest need schools are being taught by TFA graduates with only 6 weeks of training, which I think is shameful. Even qualified teachers struggle to meet the needs of their students due to limited time for planning, grading, and meeting with kids outside of class. In most schools, professional development is seen as a joke, a workshop that you attend once in which you eat some cookies, drink some coffee, and then go back to teaching as usual. In my school, teachers are eager for development and administration is well-meaning, but it is often just a few sessions with little coaching or follow-through to help teachers actually implement the changes. And, of course, it tends to be based around educational trends or the hot new book that someone in admin just read, rather than research-based strategies to improve student learning. I’m envious of programs that Crehan mentions in the book, in which there are a variety of programs offered in each region and teachers can pick the training that would be most useful to them, interacting with teachers from other schools and swapping ideas as they do so. Or programs that send master teachers into a school, giving them time to review the existing approach before sharing their recommendations. One last thought: while it’s clear that waiting to track students gives them the time they need to learn at their own pace and keeps opportunities open to them, Crehan doesn’t talk as much about what happens at 15 or 16, when students are tracked. In the US, that means that the high-performing kids take AP classes, while the other students just stay in their low-level academic classes. But in Finland it means that students have the chance to switch to a vocational school, a choice that is not seen as a failure to do well academically, but as the result of a rational appraisal of their skills and future goals. I so wish that we hadn’t gotten rid of most voc-tech programs in our eagerness to move past tracking students. As Crehan notes, a kid who feels disengaged at the start of high school would be much more motivated if he knew that decent grades in 10th grade math and English would determine his admission to an auto mechanic program that would put him on track to have a well paying job by the time his peers were shouldering mountains of student loans for college. I firmly believe that every student should have the option of going to college, which means giving them a high-quality education until they’re ready to make their own choices… but I also firmly believe that students shouldn’t have to see voch-tech programs as a “lesser” option. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, despite the fact that there were few actionable steps that a lone teacher could make. And I'm not quite ready to move to Finland...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Daiya Hashimoto

    A young English teacher visited classrooms in countries whose teenagers ranked within top 5 in reading, math and science. the chosen countries were Finland, Japan, Singapore, China, and Canada. You can see various successes and failures of the countries' educational policies, and you can also see the difference between Western standard of education and Asian one. What we, Japanese, have taken for granted turns out not to be so natural at all in other part of the world. For example, the author was A young English teacher visited classrooms in countries whose teenagers ranked within top 5 in reading, math and science. the chosen countries were Finland, Japan, Singapore, China, and Canada. You can see various successes and failures of the countries' educational policies, and you can also see the difference between Western standard of education and Asian one. What we, Japanese, have taken for granted turns out not to be so natural at all in other part of the world. For example, the author was surprised at frequent group activities in Japanese Junior High school. Actually, Japanese children learn from the group activity called “Han”, how to become a good member of the groups to attain their given goals. The author analyzed that Japanese education realizes internalization of mind to follow the rules through the group activities from early ages. She wrote that Japanese try to mold children's personalities so that they can get on well in society, whereas in the west they foster individuality, though she seems to take the Japanese style as Japanese society's strength which Westerners can't imitate. The five countries introduced have different features and advantages, Finnish egalitarian education and teacher's high social status, Japanese collective education and significant roles of mothers and cram schools, Singaporean exceptional enthusiasm for education and severe competition, Chinese Confucianism value systems and focus on rote memorization, and Canadian diversity education. Reading this book, I virtually inspected the countries schools, and concluded that as education were deeply involved with countries' cultures and national characters, we can't easily adapt other country's success as it is to other countries. At the last part, the author discussed the trade-off between "21st century abilities" like creative thinking, critical thinking and problem-solving, and general academic abilities. The tradeoff is universal issue today. We can't pursue both with finite resources. She proposed some integrated ways like teaching problem-solving through math or teaching critical thinking through history.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Susan Bazzett-Griffith

    Cleverlands is a well-researched book about the educational systems of nations that have shown excellent international test scores and outcomes for their primary and secondary school student populations. The author travels to Finland, Japan, Singapore, China and Canada to see in action the types of policies and cultures that seem to enrich their school systems and allow them to consistently score higher than her home country (UK), as well as America. I was very impressed by the research about ev Cleverlands is a well-researched book about the educational systems of nations that have shown excellent international test scores and outcomes for their primary and secondary school student populations. The author travels to Finland, Japan, Singapore, China and Canada to see in action the types of policies and cultures that seem to enrich their school systems and allow them to consistently score higher than her home country (UK), as well as America. I was very impressed by the research about everything from learning styles to teacher training to national culture to tracking (in British "setting") students on different educational paths from different ages, and particularly enjoyed the sections about fixed versus growth mindset beliefs and how debunked ideas about intelligence and potential are often ignored by many western countries. I learned quite a bit and found the book unique compared to other tomes about the same sorts of topics because at the end, it actually sums up some easy and low-cost changes that could be implemented by any school systems anywhere without much political blowback. I also appreciated her mention and concentration on how diversity actually does (or does not) affect overall PISA scores and what research shows to help improve outcomes for non-native speakers/refugees from other nation in helping them obtain higher educational objectives. Finally, I sincerely was impressed by her straight forward points in the final chapters about what practices and beliefs simply are not helpful, are actually harmful, to our students and why it would behoove countries to get rid of them (early tracking of students, lowered standarads, overly broad curricula without enough time for mastery for all students, etc.). Overall, Cleverlands is an excellent resource on best practices of educational on a global scale, and is also immensely readable as a non-fiction book. Four stars.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lin

    4.5 stars. If you're curious to know how 5 other education systems compare to ours, read this book. There are things we are doing right, and things we should look into further and consider changing. It gives you a lot to think about! 4.5 stars. If you're curious to know how 5 other education systems compare to ours, read this book. There are things we are doing right, and things we should look into further and consider changing. It gives you a lot to think about!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Seán Mchugh

    Every student teacher should read Cleverlands, it’s refreshingly anecdotal, a travelogue with an educational emphasis. She exposes flaws in the way universities prepare teachers that are essential to understand. In addition she does a great job of summing up much of the essential research of the last 10 years in a way that is practical and succinct. In fact the whole narrative was reassuringly much more research based than I was expecting it to be. It is has some very interesting perspectives on Every student teacher should read Cleverlands, it’s refreshingly anecdotal, a travelogue with an educational emphasis. She exposes flaws in the way universities prepare teachers that are essential to understand. In addition she does a great job of summing up much of the essential research of the last 10 years in a way that is practical and succinct. In fact the whole narrative was reassuringly much more research based than I was expecting it to be. It is has some very interesting perspectives on differentiation that are fascinating when extended across all 5 focus nations, and written in an informal style that makes it easy (and at times laugh out loud funny!) to read. I was particularly interested as it really unpacks the whole approach to teaching in Chinese cultures... which has been my working life for 20 years, as I live and work and teach in Singapore. Having lived in Singapore for so long, I’m amazed she seems so oblivious of the many international schools here, the fact that expats spend vast sums of money every year to keep their kids OUT of the Singapore system, should tell her something about the shortcomings of the PISA winning system, that expats shun, strange she chose to ignore that. She’s a relatively inexperienced teacher, so some of her conclusions seem a bit ... naive? Like her uncritical acceptance of PISA scores as a valid measure of effective teaching practice, so really I’d advise reading it along side Yong Zhao’s ‘What Works May Hurt” nice and short and a much needed antidote to her PISA centric view of global education. It’s great reading a Chinese academic perspective on Chinese teaching, he rips it to shreds in a way that caucasian academics couldn’t without being accused of prejudice. So read it, but remember, there’s a reason why expatriates in Asia (especially pan Asian families) spend VAST amounts of money to keep their kids out of the local schools, despite their glowing PISA scores—this is an issue critical to this area that for some reason Crehan completely ignores... PS read the conclusions first! Knowing where she’s headed makes the rest of the book much easier to appreciate.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ingrid

    I had really high hopes for this book. It was fine and I really appreciate the effort to do research in the field and be as unbiased as possible, but a lot of things seemed glossed over. It does provide an interesting glimpse into the education system of some high achieving countries around the world. Crehan takes us into the education system of Finland, Japan, Canada, Beijing, and Singapore in an effort to figure out what makes these countries one of top scores in the PISA (international educati I had really high hopes for this book. It was fine and I really appreciate the effort to do research in the field and be as unbiased as possible, but a lot of things seemed glossed over. It does provide an interesting glimpse into the education system of some high achieving countries around the world. Crehan takes us into the education system of Finland, Japan, Canada, Beijing, and Singapore in an effort to figure out what makes these countries one of top scores in the PISA (international education study) exam. I also did appreciated the open mindedness of the author and how she addressed that education has multiple facets. Teacher, educators, school admins, and even parents make the choices they do because of the system around them and what they have in place. The system is based off of not only the culture of the country, the social expectations of individuals, how highly teachers are looked upon in society, but also the history - how things came to be. You won't come from this book having a solution or common thread of the world's education system, and the book is clear it doesn't really want to offer solutions. But instead, you'll get a nice high level view. For me, I wish there was more meat in each school and we dived deeper, but I guess this is a good starting point for me to look into other literature instead.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    Crehan has travelled the world to investigate the most efficient school systems when it comes to scoring well in PISA. The account is interesting, but chatty, and facts are mixed with remembered conversations and anecdotes from various schools. I actually enjoyed the format, but 200 pages I found the book a bit repetitive. The most informative chapter is the conclusion at the end - which could actually stand alone!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    A good introduction to PISA Really enjoyed reading about education in other countries being s teacher in the UK. However, i found writing style patronisingly annoying, very similar to some teacher conferences I’ve been, some of it was very tongue-in-cheek, if you are not a teacher yourself you might enjoy it more

  12. 4 out of 5

    Christian

    Excellent book for brushing off old stereotypes of other countries and updating your ideas with evidence based information.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Louis House

    Crehan makes a compelling case for her suggestions regarding the improvement of education systems around the world, nicely summed up in a section at the end of the book. I find it hard to disagree with her point of view, and I enjoyed her writing style for the most part. I would recommend it to anyone concerned with effective education.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    This was excellent, being a teacher she could understand how school systems worked in other countries. She choose 5 top performers in Pisa, stayed and taught in the countries and this is a description of how the different systems work and how they achieve excellence. There are major cultural differences, and in general support and parenting. As an ex maths teacher, her coverage was intriguing. I have also felt that numerical fluency is valuable, faced with 15 year old kids who can't divide by 3, This was excellent, being a teacher she could understand how school systems worked in other countries. She choose 5 top performers in Pisa, stayed and taught in the countries and this is a description of how the different systems work and how they achieve excellence. There are major cultural differences, and in general support and parenting. As an ex maths teacher, her coverage was intriguing. I have also felt that numerical fluency is valuable, faced with 15 year old kids who can't divide by 3, lamented the lack of good textbooks in the UK, hopefully now being remedied and I have always seen the value of structured courses, where one bit is understood in depth before you move on, and there are less bits, our syllabus is very fragmented and our teacher pace too knee jerk to allow time to properly absorb and practise. I loved the Chinese emphasis on time between lessons, transition discipline, and daily exercises although I'm glad I didn't have that at school myself except what we called the break run to warm up before breakfast in the icy conditions of 1963. I'm not so sure about her liking Canada, for all its belief in diversity, I think it can be very conformist in culture and my niece's kids were electively home educated and are a fantastic pair. But a country good on second chances even in middle age.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mauricio Coindreau

    Really loves how the book not only relies on first-hand experience, but also on education and psychological studies. Very similar in content to The Smartest Kids in the World by Amada Ripley, think it pays a great service different education reforms around the world, while understanding how culture and environment support countries that want to do better.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Adelaida Diaz-Roa

    What an interesting and insightful book! It goes into the history of some of the best school systems and explains how they are now, then at the end suggests ways to implement this in our own systems and schools.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Douglas

    If the primary goal of any book is to provoke thought, "Cleverlands" succeeds wildly. It is superb. Part travelogue and part research-based survey of leading education systems, Crehan gives a worldly perspective to the never-ending debates over education. As a teacher in one of the countries visited (Canada, albeit in a lower-scoring province), it gave me an appreciation of many of the things that our system does to help students succeed. At the same time, she completely overturns many popular n If the primary goal of any book is to provoke thought, "Cleverlands" succeeds wildly. It is superb. Part travelogue and part research-based survey of leading education systems, Crehan gives a worldly perspective to the never-ending debates over education. As a teacher in one of the countries visited (Canada, albeit in a lower-scoring province), it gave me an appreciation of many of the things that our system does to help students succeed. At the same time, she completely overturns many popular notions concerning the drivers of success of the systems of East Asia and Finland, and I find it impossible not to speculate on which of their innovations could be successfully transported here. I have only two minor reservations. Firstly, it is overly anecdotal, such that the words "probably" and "I believe" pop up more often than I would like. Crehan is a keen observer, but she is not Tocqueville. As a result, thought-provoking as "Cleverlands" may be, it is less than conclusive. To her credit, Crehan acknowledges this, but an acknowledged flaw is a flaw nonetheless. Second, as a Western visitor, I question some of her insights on the East Asian systems. When in Finland and Canada she struggled to contain her admiration; when in East Asia she had to spend some time just grappling with the different culture. This does not, of course, mean that her insights concerning these countries are inaccurate, but I would be curious to see a Chinese or Japanese writer cover the same topic for the sake of comparison. Even so, this remains a highly recommended book for any teacher. It injects some much-needed awareness of the world into discussions of education methods, something which is all too lacking in the current political climate.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Danielle Zonneveld

    Lucy Crehan is a gifted writer. She really made you feel like you were there, in each classroom, getting a feel for what school is like in Finland, Japan, Shanghai, Singapore and Canada. If you're looking for a quick, informative, well-referenced (and funny) view on the different education systems of the world, this does just that. My favourite part was her description of the Canadian Education system (although, I may be a little biased.) She didn't choose Canada because they're one of the top p Lucy Crehan is a gifted writer. She really made you feel like you were there, in each classroom, getting a feel for what school is like in Finland, Japan, Shanghai, Singapore and Canada. If you're looking for a quick, informative, well-referenced (and funny) view on the different education systems of the world, this does just that. My favourite part was her description of the Canadian Education system (although, I may be a little biased.) She didn't choose Canada because they're one of the top performing in the PISA, but because of the many, many other vital elements that happen in their classrooms: "[...] talking, communicating with one another, collaborating with one another, working in groups. They’re using manipulatives, they’re taking real-world problems and working through it. So if they don’t understand they can find something to help them understand, they can use those resources.”(p. 229.) I really, really enjoyed this book.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ed James

    Q. How can we learn from the world's highest regarded education systems? A. By visiting them. Lucy Crehan invites us to join her on a journey of discovery from Finland to Canada. Written with first hand knowledge, studded with the latest research, and laced with a joke or two, it's not bad for a crowd funded first effort at a book. And she busts a myth or two along the way. Q. How can we learn from the world's highest regarded education systems? A. By visiting them. Lucy Crehan invites us to join her on a journey of discovery from Finland to Canada. Written with first hand knowledge, studded with the latest research, and laced with a joke or two, it's not bad for a crowd funded first effort at a book. And she busts a myth or two along the way.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jon Margetts

    Re-read review - 06.04.18 Reflecting upon my initial thoughts on Cleverlands last year, I'm not surprised that I was so focused upon the content within it arguing for knowledge-based curricula, the dispelling of 21st century skills, and the correct way in explicitly material through highly structured modelling and teacher-led explanation. That much hasn't changed on this second read through. I was equally fascinated, again, by the way in which educational standards dropped through the introduct Re-read review - 06.04.18 Reflecting upon my initial thoughts on Cleverlands last year, I'm not surprised that I was so focused upon the content within it arguing for knowledge-based curricula, the dispelling of 21st century skills, and the correct way in explicitly material through highly structured modelling and teacher-led explanation. That much hasn't changed on this second read through. I was equally fascinated, again, by the way in which educational standards dropped through the introduction of a 'Relaxed Education' in Japan in the 90s. This lead to a drop in student motivation, a decline in employment outcomes for those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and a drop in literacy rates. Similarly, the 2003 introduction of discovery-based maths learning programmes in Canada lead to a similar decline in maths scores. Notably, discovery based learning affects all learners, but especially hits the 'lower end' the most. It's an inequitable approach. Bitter sweet as it is, it's nice to see your own 'pedagogy' of traditional teaching vindicated. However, what were my thoughts upon rereading Cleverlands? Borne from familiarity with its content, and having worked independently in education now for a sufficient amount of time to reflect upon my own environment, I was exposed to a deeper level of thought surrounding various issues distinguishable from the traditional/progressive debate. Crehan doesn't take sides on this debate: she only looks to identify and then synthesis in a set of 'Five Principles' the common traits of top performing nations. This conscious balance is an effective tool at challenge my own preconceived notions about what works. Let's take two examples: Intrinsic motivation in the teaching profession : This section really fleshed out my understanding of how good teachers stay motivated. I was under the somewhat shallow impression that so long as you are good at something, you will be motivated. And that's true - motivation succeeds success, counter-intuitively. But that's only one element of intrinsic motivation (mastery). An individual must also feel a degree of relatedness. Does their work connect them and foster relationships with other individuals? Or is it isolated. A sense of purpose must also be evident within the work. What's the end goal here? If I'm going to teach, does it match my long-term principles, values and targets? If not, I'm less likely to enjoy doing it. And, finally, intrinsic motivation must include a degree of autonomy. This is especially true when affecting curriculum design and how others in a department operate. By being more prescriptive, you can bring about dissent. No-one likes being told what to do. Sometimes, the extrinsic 'stick and carrot' must be used, but in order to make work enjoyable, a balance must be achieved. All in all, intrinsic motivation has been a vital component of what makes Finnish teaching so successful. Vocational and academic curricula: When I was at boarding school, we really only had one key message marketed to us: go to university to succeed at life. Now, that might have been the environment itself (who sends their children to a fee-paying school if not to achieve 'highly' in life? Rates of students attending red-brick unis (or otherwise) would be a USP for such a school), but I believe it's also the same in a large number of other schools around the country. University is seen as the be-all and end-all of education. If you don't get into a undergraduate degree, then you're destined for a life of failure. This attitude may have lead over the past few decades to a rise in university applications, an increase in the number of courses available to students, and, arguably, a decline in standards (it's now easier than ever to get a first class degree). The problem is that a large number of these courses are not preparing graduates for working life. Hence the rise in previously 'unskilled jobs' that are now marketed towards graduates. Singapore, on the other hand, balances the two equally. They champion vocational work and give it proper credence in specific schools. Yes, they track (select on skill) from an early age, leading to greater inequity in outcomes, but then those who do go onto vocational work are less likely to see it as a failure. Standards are still extremely high. Canada, too, does this without tracking - students can select their own route through school, striking a balance between vocational and academic as per their own choice throughout high school. However, such an individualised system is quite expensive to apply, and must, in my opinion, account for much of Finland and Canada's success. Either way, funding or not, a championing of vocational skills should be welcomed in the UK. Final thoughts: again, it is the balance in this book that is so welcome. It neither takes a progressive or traditional slant, but just simply states the patterns that occur in the highest-performing countries. Crehan is also masterful in the way that she outlines the 'trade-offs' for implementing any reform along the lines of East Asian cultures: a increase in pressure on children (especially from a very young age); the pressures of a high-stakes exam culture that shapes the way teachers deliver content, despite efforts to build character; and the actual need for character development in a curriculum, despite it not being measurable upon any international scales (on that note, I was very interested to reread how Japan's focus on character is to focus upon 'conformity' over individualism - an advantage for learning, but does it limit 'creative thinking'? Not necessarily. More on that another time.) All in all, an excellent, excellent book. __________________________ In this exceptionally well-researched and engaging book, educational internationalist, researcher and qualified teacher Lucy Crehan travels to Singapore, Shanghai, Japan, Finland and Canada to discover why the educational standards (ranked by PISA) in these countries is so markedly high. In doing so, she dispels many of the myths surrounding such high-performing nations: East Asian countries, for example, are not exam hot boxes of discontent and disillusionment with education because, despite their strong focus on top-notch academic outcomes, the self-reported of happiness and satisfaction with schools ranks alongside (if not above) those of their Western counterparts. Similarly, a common trade-off espoused by proponents of Progressive pedagogies in Western schools is that East Asian students focus on academic outcomes over 21st-century skills (i.e. creative thinking, etc.). Except, Crehan skillfully dispels this myth as well; critical thinking requires domain specific knowledge so it's much more effective for schools to not teach skills but to teach skills through knowledge-driven content. This might require memorisation and didactorial teaching, but only in a highly structured environment such as this might pupils have the chance to explore more 'expansive skills'. As research from Kirschner et al suggest, too, discovery leading leads to compounding mistakes and fewer learning outcomes achieved. I would love to go into more detail on this fantastic book but, ultimately, there's so much content to digest that I think I'd be here for a good more couple of hours before I even scratched the surface. This is a readable book with strong implications and guidelines for successful education systems. By learning from other nations, we can implement the change we need to create the learning outcomes we do purportedly desire in the UK. Yes, a lot of it comes down to culture - how successful are we going to be here in the UK in changing the habits of parents across the country? If our intention is to compete with East Asia, then parents are going to have to sacrifice their jobs and dedicate their lives to their children. And, I can't see that happening. But, that said, we can instigate change in schools and school systems whilst improvements can be made, and whilst there's still the opportunity to do so.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Adelyne

    I'd picked my top 10 of the year, then this one came along and messed things up a bit. Have been in a bit of a NF slump, but this one picked me right out of it as Crehan has a very readable style that wasn't dry at all, and it was a well-researched piece of work. I liked how she starts each of her chapters with a proverb / saying from the country that she visits in the chapter, presumably the result of her discussion with her host teachers. The premise itself is interesting: As a teacher herself I'd picked my top 10 of the year, then this one came along and messed things up a bit. Have been in a bit of a NF slump, but this one picked me right out of it as Crehan has a very readable style that wasn't dry at all, and it was a well-researched piece of work. I liked how she starts each of her chapters with a proverb / saying from the country that she visits in the chapter, presumably the result of her discussion with her host teachers. The premise itself is interesting: As a teacher herself the author has experience of being in the classroom and knowing what the style is like here in England, and she was able to articulate the differences that she observed during her travels. I also thought Crehan did a good job with setting up her "educational tour" by not only visiting schools but also by living with the teachers (and their families) during her stay in each of the countries. I presume these led to more candid conversations, which she is very open about sharing in the book, and it is quite interesting to read about the teachers' opinions of the systems that they are a part of, particularly how they were "coping" with it for their own childrens' education. Books like these can sometimes spiral into a rant, or get taken over by the author's opinion, and I often find it goes downhill from that point - which never came in this one. The narrative was balanced throughout, Crehan does well in describing what *she thinks* is best (and the fact that it is her opinion is made very clear), but also some arguments for alternative systems/opinions. The tone was generally objective throughout, these only really come into play in the conclusion chapter, but by this point I thought she did a good job in rounding up her observations and it would have been weird if she had not developed views of her own during the process. It was also interesting for me to think about how my own educational upbringing influenced my opinions of the different cultures she was describing (I was educated in Malaysia till 17, in a system similar to that of Singapore, and then moved to the UK for higher education) - there were of course elements in the different systems that I found properly strange and some that I was surprised wasn't a more widespread practice. The emphasis on rote learning is often the poster child for criticism, and I was surprised to find that this one did argue some points in favour. 5 stars.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lyden Orbase

    Finally, the book I’ve been looking for. As a learning advocate I’ve always been curious how education systems work in other countries, particularly in Finland and Japan, which I’ve heard are two of the bests in the world. In this book, the author Lucy Crehan journeyed through five different countries: Finland, Japan, Singapore, China (specifically Shanghai) and Canada. These countries are consistently on the top-performers in PISA – Programme for International Student Assessment. (for more detai Finally, the book I’ve been looking for. As a learning advocate I’ve always been curious how education systems work in other countries, particularly in Finland and Japan, which I’ve heard are two of the bests in the world. In this book, the author Lucy Crehan journeyed through five different countries: Finland, Japan, Singapore, China (specifically Shanghai) and Canada. These countries are consistently on the top-performers in PISA – Programme for International Student Assessment. (for more details on PISA, here’s the link - http://www.oecd.org/pisa/) Ms. Crehan visited different schools, interviewed actual school personnel, parents, students, and stayed with teachers at their homes to gather facts and details. She gives interesting accounts and anecdotes from different schools as well as the historical and cultural backgrounds of the countries she visited. She also cited many resources, books, studies, papers, etc. which she indexed for reference. From all the facts and details she gathers, Ms. Crehan identifies 5 principles that are common traits of these top-performing systems: 1. Get children ready for formal learning 2. Design curricula concepts for mastery (and context for motivation) 3. Support children to take on challenges, rather than making concessions 4. Treat teachers as professionals 5. Combine school accountability with school support (rather than sanctions) Now it’s not all about “this is the best system, we should do this and that.” Merely, the author describes how the systems in those countries work and why it is effective for the students and educators there. In fact, other than all the positive traits, Ms. Crehan also cited some aspects where the systems need improvement. This is really thought provoking, I’ve learned so many things and I recommend this to every learners and educators – well, practically to everyone, but particularly to school superintendents, board members and teachers. I wish all those in the position would realize and apply the best ways to support our schools and students to their full potential. Thank you, Lucy Crehan, for this wonderful book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Hanifah

    It is such a joy reading best practices and samples from many different countries. At times, countries that have different cultural characteristics end up educating their children in the same way i.e. China and Finland. My key takeaway from this book is that a curriculum should never be detailed. It is meant to be general to cover high-level concepts and making sure that children are on their path to gaining mastery of these key concepts. The reality now, at least where I live, the curriculum is It is such a joy reading best practices and samples from many different countries. At times, countries that have different cultural characteristics end up educating their children in the same way i.e. China and Finland. My key takeaway from this book is that a curriculum should never be detailed. It is meant to be general to cover high-level concepts and making sure that children are on their path to gaining mastery of these key concepts. The reality now, at least where I live, the curriculum is used as a political vehicle by officers and ministers to take on larger chunks of the budget with very minimum attention paid to the quality of it. It changes every 3 years. It is not a standard, never had been. Another important point in this book is about supporting children to take on challenges. When I was a kid I joined many competitions and championships be it academic or non-academic. At that age, it was an extreme challenge for me to balance between exams and competitions. It was a huge strain on my childhood that I rarely play with the kids in the neighborhood. This is wrong. The books say that the challenges need to come from the children themselves. Not because the school needs to score on a certain championship to gain certain funding, etc. This leads me to the final point, school accountability should be comparable with the support it receives from the state, not sanction. The more transparent the school is and the higher its accountability to the state, the more support it receives. So the mindset should be incentive-based, not sanction-based. All in all though, hugely empirical book. Strikes a chord in my childhood.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Cleverlands was a fascinating read, particularly for anyone interested in education. Crehan lands much more heavily on the side of qualitative description than quantitative evidence, but in a world that is increasingly data-driven by decontextualized numbers, this turns out to be refreshing. She doesn't pretend to have all the answers or even to have provided enough information to come up with an answer, but includes research and test results throughout her chapters, trying to draw parallels whe Cleverlands was a fascinating read, particularly for anyone interested in education. Crehan lands much more heavily on the side of qualitative description than quantitative evidence, but in a world that is increasingly data-driven by decontextualized numbers, this turns out to be refreshing. She doesn't pretend to have all the answers or even to have provided enough information to come up with an answer, but includes research and test results throughout her chapters, trying to draw parallels where they feel useful, but adding caveats each time. Her focus on each of the five educational systems (Finland, Singapore, Shanghai, Japan, and Canada) provides a well-rounded picture of culture, history, and schooling initiatives, making conjectures on how they may have influenced each other and providing evidence of this where possible. Most importantly, she takes the big "lessons" that everybody always says we should learn from these systems and puts them into context...showing how they do (and sometimes do not) make sense in the environment from which they came - the result of which is a big "uh-huh" and "duh" of why pulling one practice out of context to implement in another is rarely successful. To be fair, the book does seem like it could have benefited from a little more editing or revision to really hone this message and could probably be expanded to include some additional explicit comparative work that would make it even more powerful, but for what it is, it's a solid read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    This collection of anecdotal experiences and relevant research findings about education in different countries which perform well on the international PISA exams is fascinating. Though the book has an extensive bibliography, since the primary data is from the author's personal travels in Finland, China, Japan, Singapore, and Canada, I took everything with a grain of salt. Still, the book raised a lot of important questions about public education, and about parental roles and choices in education This collection of anecdotal experiences and relevant research findings about education in different countries which perform well on the international PISA exams is fascinating. Though the book has an extensive bibliography, since the primary data is from the author's personal travels in Finland, China, Japan, Singapore, and Canada, I took everything with a grain of salt. Still, the book raised a lot of important questions about public education, and about parental roles and choices in education. My husband and I had a lot of great conversations stemming from this book. We bought it in England on our honeymoon. Interestingly, I haven't seen this book sold anywhere in the U.S. It definitely uses English spellings and colloquialisms but greater understanding about education strategies and their results is critically important for American readers as well as English and European ones. The afterword was frightening -- studies show democracies aren't better at education than non-democracies because voters aren't informed enough about education policy and effect to hold leaders accountable. Here's to me trying to be a better educated citizen, and hopefully one-day parent.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa

    Fascinating and readable exploration of education around the world, particularly in those countries that reliably come out on top in international comparisons (Finland, Singapore, Japan, China, Canada). My Canadian friends may be pleased to know that the British author ultimately concludes that Canada's system is the one she'd choose for her children. I do not work in education so much of what was presented in the book was new to me, and I was surprised to learn just how much education systems v Fascinating and readable exploration of education around the world, particularly in those countries that reliably come out on top in international comparisons (Finland, Singapore, Japan, China, Canada). My Canadian friends may be pleased to know that the British author ultimately concludes that Canada's system is the one she'd choose for her children. I do not work in education so much of what was presented in the book was new to me, and I was surprised to learn just how much education systems vary around the world. For example, I'd never considered that the wide variety of extracurriculars available in Canadian schools were not the norm elsewhere, but acted as an effective mechanism to keep kids invested in school even if they weren't academically strong (this is contrasted to the Asian countries, where student investment was assured because education has much greater cultural importance). Overall an engaging read and one I'd recommend to teachers, politicians, and any others interested in education.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Pratiwi Pratiwi

    A comprehensive explanation based on evidence about top education performers This book has taught me that the key of education performance is not only about local values or cultural foundations, but also the government policy. A great book as the explanations are based on first-hand evidences from the case study she conducted that is way beyond what PISA explains. I am currently working in the field of public policy and this book does not only gives me a comprehensive education policy interventi A comprehensive explanation based on evidence about top education performers This book has taught me that the key of education performance is not only about local values or cultural foundations, but also the government policy. A great book as the explanations are based on first-hand evidences from the case study she conducted that is way beyond what PISA explains. I am currently working in the field of public policy and this book does not only gives me a comprehensive education policy interventions but also how to conduct case study for policy-making. Yet, it also challenges our critical thinking. What I love most about the book is in the end of her explanation, the writer highlights points the top education performers have in common, they are all worth to adopt, like other countries, they failed some policy-interventions too, but those countries have learned from the mistakes and improved. Worth to read not only for policymakers but also teachers, education practitioners, and parents.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Frederic Kerr

    The best aspect of this book is the author's discussion of the various cultures in which education systems exist. The weakness is the author's inconsistent and sometimes biased analysis. She is a teacher, so she leans toward systems, like Finland's, that "respect" teaching, especially if there appears to be minimal evaluation of teachers. She praises both Singapore, which actually has incentives for teachers, and Canada, whose teachers' unions fight every attempt to measure student and teacher p The best aspect of this book is the author's discussion of the various cultures in which education systems exist. The weakness is the author's inconsistent and sometimes biased analysis. She is a teacher, so she leans toward systems, like Finland's, that "respect" teaching, especially if there appears to be minimal evaluation of teachers. She praises both Singapore, which actually has incentives for teachers, and Canada, whose teachers' unions fight every attempt to measure student and teacher performance. She points out the disastrous effects of Canada's ongoing experiment with "Discovery Math" before declaring that if she had children, Canada, whose students perform worse than all the other countries she visited, would be where she would send them to school. This book makes it clear why Asian countries' education systems and work ethics out compete their occidental counterparts. Asian education emphasizes effort as a great leveller. North American education nurtures self esteem.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bethan Smith

    As a trainee teacher this book has been essential in challenging my own pedagogy of the education system as a whole and to be critical of what/why/how we are teaching children in England compared to other top performing countries. Crehan provides a balanced and well supported account of her experiences and considers wider social and ethical issues other than just PISA scores. Whilst this book does not really demonstrate many practical changes that can be made within my NQT classroom, there are a As a trainee teacher this book has been essential in challenging my own pedagogy of the education system as a whole and to be critical of what/why/how we are teaching children in England compared to other top performing countries. Crehan provides a balanced and well supported account of her experiences and considers wider social and ethical issues other than just PISA scores. Whilst this book does not really demonstrate many practical changes that can be made within my NQT classroom, there are attitudes and approaches that I have developed as a result of this read. The book has inspired me to challenge my thinking and the national curriculum and it’s overall really interesting to have an insight into the drastically different education systems of other countries. It has most of all allowed me to be more aware of my values when designing an ideal curriculum FOR children and to question methods of teaching and my own bias/ misconceptions of leading education systems.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

    I really appreciated this book, especially after experiencing different education systems while working overseas. Firstly the author seems like a really thoughtful person and I wished I could sit down and have a conversation with her over coffee about all these ideas and her experiences. Secondly I thought she was really even-handed in her appraisal of different systems and also did a good job of looking past cultural stereotypes and going deeper into reasons for different cultural practices and I really appreciated this book, especially after experiencing different education systems while working overseas. Firstly the author seems like a really thoughtful person and I wished I could sit down and have a conversation with her over coffee about all these ideas and her experiences. Secondly I thought she was really even-handed in her appraisal of different systems and also did a good job of looking past cultural stereotypes and going deeper into reasons for different cultural practices and values. A lot of her commentary reflected my experiences with education overseas and in the US, but also gave me a lot to think about and question. If anything I wish the book was longer, more in depth, and more academic but she does cover a lot of ground as is and has a great list of references for further reading. Good read for anyone interested in education and policy.

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