The Utah Legislature should read “The Smartest Kids in the World,” about the world’s smartest kids (in Finland, Poland, South Korea) as measured by the Program for International Assessment. They do not use much technology (“Utah considers all-out attack on schools’ digital divide,” Tribune, Feb. 4).
What they do have are well-respected, well-paid and well-trained teachers. In addition, education is the top priority. Parents do not routinely pull kids out of school for athletic competitions and family vacations.
These countries began their climbs to prominence with plans that included rigorous standards for increasing student achievement and competitiveness. Unlike in the United States, these plans were implemented comparatively quickly instead of decades trying the next popular theory or policy.
Perhaps the most important characteristic of these systems is where they spend money. They do not have many modern schools, lavish digital classrooms or turf fields. While such items, especially the technology, can sometimes facilitate learning, they are not the bedrocks of exceptional schools.
The real foundations for the developing smart kids are enthusiastic parents and teachers who do not focus on superficial issues like one sentence in a textbook, but instead get students down to the work of learning.