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The Smartest Kids in the World

The Smartest Kids in the World

And How They Got That Way

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How Do Other Countries Create “Smarter” Kids?

In a handful of nations, virtually all children are learning to make complex arguments and solve problems they’ve never seen before. They are learning to think, in other words, and to thrive in the modern economy.

What is it like to be a child in the world’s new education superpowers?

In a global quest to find answers for our own children, author and Time magazine journalist Amanda Ripley follows three Americans embed­ded in these countries for one year. Kim, fifteen, raises $10,000 so she can move from Oklahoma to Finland; Eric, eighteen, exchanges a high-achieving Minnesota suburb for a booming city in South Korea; and Tom, seventeen, leaves a historic Pennsylvania village for Poland.

Through these young informants, Ripley meets battle-scarred reformers, sleep-deprived zombie students, and a teacher who earns $4 million a year. Their stories, along with groundbreaking research into learning in other cultures, reveal a pattern of startling transformation: none of these countries had many “smart” kids a few decades ago. Things had changed. Teaching had become more rigorous; parents had focused on things that mattered; and children had bought into the promise of education.

A journalistic tour de force, The Smartest Kids in the World is a book about building resilience in a new world—as told by the young Americans who have the most at stake.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451654424 | 
  • August 2013
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How world’s smartest kids got that way

Four exchange students who studied abroad explain to journalist Amanda Ripley why America is falling behind the world’s education superpowers.

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Read an Excerpt

The Smartest Kids in the World prologue the mystery


Heat Map: In a handful of countries scattered across the world, virtually all kids are learning to think critically in math, reading, and science.

For most of my career at Time and other magazines, I worked hard to avoid education stories. If my editors asked me to write about schools or tests, I countered with an idea about terrorism, plane crashes, or a pandemic flu. That usually worked.

I... see more

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