The Secrets Behind the Success of the World's Education Superpowers

by Lucy Crehan

Number of pages: 320

Publisher: Random House Uk

BBB Library: Education

ISBN: 978-1783522736

About the Author

Lucy Crehan is a qualified teacher, an education explorer, and an international education consultant. She taught science and psychology at a secondary school for three years before turning her sights to research and policy, and gaining a distinction in her Master of Education at the University of Cambridge.


Editorial Review

As a teacher in an inner-city school, Lucy Crehan was exasperated with ever-changing government policy claiming to be based on lessons from 'top-performing' education systems. She became curious about what was really going on in classrooms of the countries whose teenagers ranked top in the world in reading, math, and science. Determined to dig deeper, Lucy set off on a personal educational odyssey through Finland, Japan, Singapore, Shanghai, and Canada, teaching in schools, immersing herself in their very different cultures and discovering the surprising truths about school life that don't appear in the charts and graphs. Cleverlands documents her journey, weaving together her experiences with research on policy, history, psychology, and culture to offer extensive new insights and provide answers to three fundamental questions: How do these countries achieve their high scores? What can others learn from them? And what is the price of this success?

Book Reviews

“Cleverlands is essentially the story of one teacher’s journey across five high-performing education systems. Fueled on curiosity – and perhaps no little frustration deriving from her time teaching in the UK state system – Lucy Crehan spent two weeks in Finland, Japan, Singapore, Shanghai, and Canada. She spent time ‘living with teachers, listening to parents and learning what education looks like in completely different cultures’. The result is a book which should be read by anyone who has an interest in improving education – and a testimony to the merits of crowd-funded publishing.”—Cognita

“Lucy Crehan has studied the “competition” closely, formed judgments about why they’re successful, and written a book rich with knowledge, insight, and humor. You will feel more clever for having readCleverlands.”—Education Next

"This was a very useful book in understanding what is going on in the countries that are successful in educating their children. What you get from this book that you may not get elsewhere is that it puts the achievements of these countries in their cultural context. The implication in effect is that it is not 100% replicable elsewhere, but many things can be learned from the pedagogy and policies of these countries. The book is well written and engaging."

Books on Related Topics

Wisdom to Share

The Finnish strategy for achieving equality and excellence in education has been based on constructing a publicly funded comprehensive school system without selecting, tracking, or streaming students during their common basic education, to replace the two-tier system that divided children into different types of schools at the age of ten.

The Finnish government funds a five-year Master’s degree in education. All teachers produce a Master’s level thesis in an educational topic of their choice, are taught the latest educational science based on up-to-date research on teaching practice, and complete a placement in a special teacher training school.

Finnish teachers have more positive relationships with others than anyone else. In primary schools, they do meet at least weekly to plan together. They don’t have positions of authority within the school other than the principal—all teachers within a subject department are on an equal professional footing. They don’t have performance-related pay or anything else that might put them in competition with one another. The relationships between teachers not only improve their motivation, but also their effectiveness.

The focus on play in the early years is a deliberate strategy chosen by the Finns based on research showing the benefits of play for children’s physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development. The kindergarten year does aim to prepare children for reading and mathematics, but it does so through “preparatory activities” rather than outright teaching.

Education in Japan is regarded primarily as a tool of government; to train obedient and reliable citizens in the various skills required by a modern state.

When parents were asked about the best and worst features of the Japanese education system, they had identified the lack of freedom in schools as being both simultaneously.

The main theme that came out of all our research in Japan was the importance placed on teaching the children to live as part of a group.

The Japanese public school system ensures that everyone has the same education so that no one has any unfair advantages and that test results and subsequent high school access are based on how hard the young person has studied.

The education system in Singapore is based on the concept of meritocracy: that is, it aims to identify talent in the young and give different opportunities to different children dependent on that talent.

Even though Singaporean educational system doesn’t produce equitable outcomes, they do very well at getting a high proportion of their young people to reach baseline levels in reading, math, and science.

The Singaporean system doesn’t necessarily overcome the difficulty of getting those from poorer backgrounds to perform as well as their more affluent peers; however, once children are streamed, it does make sure that nearly all reach a certain minimum standard.