What makes kids smart?

With Labor Day approaching, Back to School has already happened in many communities and it makes perfect sense to ask ourselves: “What makes kids smart or better stated, what do kids need to succeed in school?”

All parents know children need to be good learners to be successful in and out of school. The smartest Kids in the World, is a recent book that points to 3 reasons kids excel in school—and the author looks to schools not in the United States to find the factors that seem to determine academic success.

In Norway teachers are well trained and love their jobs. Only top students are allowed to enroll in teacher-training programs, which are more demanding than such programs in America. Coupled with that belief in the idea that students know they need to work hard to graduate, go to university and get a good job. Compare this with the fact that a quarter of American students fail to graduate from high school.

The second piece of information comes from Korea, where rigor is on steroids, with kids attending hagwons, the cram schools where Korean kids get their real education. Parents see this as the only way their children will pass the country’s stringent graduation exam, which is seen as the key to a successful, prosperous life.

The third piece of information comes from Poland, reproducing best practices learned from Finland and Korea—well trained teachers, a rigorous curriculum and a challenging exam required of all graduating seniors.

Every child deserves well-qualified teachers who like their students, a vigorous curriculum and a way to evaluate students’ knowledge upon high school graduation.

As the school year begins, these ideas should be front and center of any debate about children and education.


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