While Finland's education system has been getting a lot of attention in Singapore lately, a new book on top education systems also puts the spotlight on South Korea and Poland, as well as Finland.
Why are countries with good education models getting it right whereas America is not?
That was what Amanda Ripley, an investigative journalist, sought to find out in her book, The Smartest Kids In The World: And How They Got That Way.
She is a fine storyteller, criss-crossing the globe, searching for clues on how the world's new education superpowers achieve results. The Emerson Fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington, DC, has written a series of acclaimed articles about learning and children in Time magazine and The Atlantic.
One common thread is that in all three countries, curriculum content is of a high standard. Students learn not just facts, but also critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Students are expected to master mathematical formulae and do calculations in their minds, without the aid of calculators, says Ripley.
Somewhat surprisingly in this tech-heavy age, she says that teachers in all three countries use chalk boards to teach. Electronic white boards and iPads are visibly absent in classrooms.
Students learn how to read from their teachers in school and parents at home. South Korean parents quiz their children on mathematical and science concepts while cooking dinner.
In essays, students are tested on their ability to explain in writing complex problems in mathematics and science. In science, they learn the connections between theory and life. For example they can explain, using science, what happens to a person's muscles when they exercise.