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Teru Clavel
Author
World Class
Teru Clavel, author
When Teru Clavel’s oldest was two years old, she found herself in the Hunger Games of NYC preschool admissions. As friends vied to set their toddlers on a race to the Ivy League, Teru felt there must be more to a premier education than a pricey ticket to elite private schools. When opportunity knocked - Teru answered. She and her family left New York for an adventure halfway around the world that fundamentally changed her ideas of what a great school and a great education are made of. Over ten years, Teru and her three children moved from Hong Kong, Shanghai, and then Tokyo, while Teru learned why Asian students are outpacing their American counterparts. Her children thrived in austere and low-tech public schools in China and Japan, becoming trilingual as they gained independence, confidence, and resilience while Teru discovered what it really means to get a world-class education.
Reviews
Angela Santomero

“Teru Clavel questions and challenges the educational system, and moves her family around the globe for over a decade to redefine and reassess what education means to them. This book changed me. It’s a must read.”​

Kirkus Review

“Educational consultant Clavel makes her book debut with an upbeat chronicle of her children’s school experiences in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Tokyo and a harsh critique of American education. Living in New York City with two young sons, the author was dismayed at her friends’ anxieties about preschool. Competition was fierce, and families went so far as to make huge donations to coveted schools, get counselors’ help during the application process, and enroll their toddlers in ‘preschool prep’ classes for their interviews. When her husband announced a huge promotion that would take the family to Hong Kong, they jumped at the chance to avoid the preschool mania. In Hong Kong, her boys thrived at preschool in a building so decrepit that it was nicknamed ‘The Prison,’ a public magnet school with a socio-economically diverse student body, dedicated teachers, and curriculum that emphasized mastery. A few years later, the family moved to Shanghai, a teeming city where Clavel found an even more admirable school system. ‘In China,’ she writes, ‘they truly believe education is the great equalizer: everyone can succeed if they work hard enough and all children deserve high-quality education.’ Pedagogy emphasized ‘memorization, challenging homework, and discipline,’ writes the author, noting that American parents would likely feel uncomfortable about teaching based on flash cards, speed drills, and repetition. After two years, the family moved again, this time to Tokyo. A top-down, centralized, stable curriculum; experienced, adequately paid teachers; and a shared commitment to the importance of education produced schooling that worked well in homogeneous Japan—and for Clavel’s children. When they returned to ‘the land of capitalism, individuality, and freedoms,’ the author was shocked by haphazard curricula, lack of oversight, thoughtless integration of technology, stunning turnover of teachers and administrators, and emphasis on sports. Finally, she opted for private schools. Clavel offers advice about vetting schools and enriching children’s education, but her evidence for praise of Asian education, mainly exam results and international ranking, is not fully convincing. Experiences in Asian schools yields well-meant suggestions for improving students’ learning.”​

Publishers Weekly

“Education consultant and columnist Clavel catalogues her children’s educational experiences across two continents in this thoughtfulcombination memoir and manual. Wanting to raise her children as global citizens, Clavel leaves the expat bubble of Hong Kong; her recounting of the family’s journey through Asia to California, with stops in four cities and several schools, highlights vivid differences in philosophy, method, and results between Asian countries and the U.S. In Shanghai, Clavel marvels at the insistence on mastery and high expectations that press students to excel. In Tokyo, she enjoys how her children learn independence, cooperation, and citizenship. In both countries, she finds, “education [is] a national priority, meant to serve the public good” and governments invest in teachers in terms of both salary and training. The top-rated school district in the U.S., Palo Alto, Calif., on the other hand, dismays her with its emphasis on technology; careless approach to curriculum, instruction, and grades; and the general U.S. education funding model, in which the best education is reserved for the privileged. The personal narrative is 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. Clavel’s hard-won lessons will be appreciated most by those who share her optimism that the U.S. system can change.”​

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