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Publisher's Summary

“An upbeat chronicle of [Clavel’s] children’s school experiences in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Tokyo...[offering] advice about vetting schools and enriching children’s education.” (Kirkus Reviews

“An intriguing volume on the differences in global education.” (Library Journal

A must-hear firsthand exploration of why Asian students are outpacing their American counterparts and how to help our children excel in today’s competitive world.

When Teru Clavel had young children, she watched her friends and fellow parents vie for spots in elite New York City schools. Instead of losing herself in the intensive applications and interview process, Teru and her family moved to Asia, embarking on a decade-long journey through the public schools of Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Tokyo. These schools were low-tech and bare-bones, with teachers who demanded obedience and order. In Hong Kong, her children’s school was nicknamed The Prison for its foreboding facilities, yet her three-year-old loved his teachers and his nightly homework. In Tokyo, the students were responsible for school chores, like preparing and serving school lunches. Yet Teru was amazed to discover that her children thrived in these academically competitive cultures; they learned to be independent, self-confident, resilient, and, above all, they developed a deep love of learning. When the family returned to the States, the true culture shock came when the top schools could no longer keep up with her children. 

Written with warmth and humor, World Class is a compelling story about how to inspire children to thrive academically. 

“Studded with lists of useful tips about choosing schools and hiring tutors, for parents who must advocate for their children and supplement gaps in their educations” (Publishers Weekly) and an insightful guide to set your children on a path toward lifelong success. 

©2019 Teru Clavel (P)2019 Simon & Schuster

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Best audio-book on education

Teru Clavel gives the listener a fascinating journey through the education systems of 5 cities in 3 countries along with an entertaining and compassionate personal memoir. She has a witty and self-depreciating style that allows us to watch her grow as she moves from a seemingly selfish and cut-throat New York where parents fight for spots at elite pre-schools so their kids can get into Harvard, to egalitarian China and the collective culture of Japan, and back to wealthy but dysfunctional Palo Alto.

Along the way she gives her insights into selecting and working with your children’s schools and providing the best educational environment at home in the form of practical tips interspersed in the text. The contrasts between the US and Asian approaches to education and parenting are striking and eye-opening.

Clavel provides a very well researched and thoughtful analysis of why the choices made by the US education system and US parents fail to provide a world class education for our kids, particularly those in poorer neighborhoods. She details how our school funding model places too much burden on the local community by providing just 10% of funds from the federal government vs. China and Japan where all schools are well funded and poorer schools actually get more resources not less. In addition, the teaching profession in Asia is highly regarded and trusted – being a teacher is a revered position and parents trust them to put their children’s needs first.

The third key theme in the book is on the individual and collective approach to parenting. Not only are there much higher academic expectations placed on kids in Asia vs the US, but perhaps surprisingly Asian societies apparently foster self-reliance in their kids. Children are taught mastery of every subject regardless of natural proclivity, and academic success in school is valued by children and parents alike rather than sporting accomplishments, family wealth or social skills. By contrast, in the US we seem to think it’s ok to be bad at math because every child is special in their own way, and we advocate for our children in a manner that is both dis-empowering and disincentivizing for them.

This was a personal read for me as I have raised my three kids in 4 cities on 4 continents and I wish I had had this book to guide me through the complex decisions that come with selecting and working with schools, and helping my children thrive in education. I felt somewhat shamed by the contrast between my own haphazard approach to schooling and parenting and Clavel’s clear, well thought out method. She translates her passion and rigor for the education of her own children into a well-considered treatise on what we need to do in the US to prepare the next generation for the global competition that they will face.

This is a very timely book as we consider the US’s place in the world as a country and think about how we will maintain our current leadership position. It’s a cliché, but our children are our most precious resource and we need to use our considerable resources to educate them all better than we currently are.