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World Class: One Mother's Journey Halfway Around the Globe in Search of the Best Education for Her Children

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  179 ratings  ·  65 reviews
An eye-opening 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, the oldest barely two, she watched as her friends and fellow parents vied to secure a spot in the right New York City preschools. Following a gut feeling that a truly world
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published August 20th 2019 by Atria Books
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Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Sep 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Teru Clavel is a mom of young children with the oldest being only two when she fights to get her children into one of the top New York City preschools. Something told her that the position of privilege was not all her children needed to receive a world-class education, so she and her family moved to Asia for ten years.

In that time, her children attend public schools in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Tokyo. Each setting has features that maximize potential. In Shanghai, for example, students stay late
Kaethe Douglas
Edited to add 06/02/19

Part of my wants to just delete all of the following, but I'll leave it for now. If anyone noticed that my review didn't actually include a review of the book, they were to kind to mention it.

Anyway, here's the thing: Clavel gives the reader a little bit of memoir of her own education, a bit of how she came to educate her own children as she did in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, Palo Alto and New York.. There is quite a bit about the educational ideologies of different countr
Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
Finally finished this book. The title is not accurate. Unless “World Class” is a step above First Class and those of us in economy class didn’t even know it was an option. Much like most of this book.
The author and her family have an enormous amount of privilege. She kind of seems aware of this, but not to the extent that she should.
A more accurate title would relate more that this is simply one woman’s memoir of world schooling her kids, who of course are all healthy, abled, and bright.
The aut
Dec 23, 2019 rated it did not like it
Full disclosure, I only made it through about three dozen pages before I found the author’s voice so insufferable that I had to give up. I’m a college professor and deeply interested in the theory and practice of education, so the subject matter was what drew me to this book. Little did I know that the author approached this subject from a position of extraordinary privilege. Manhattan apartments, Hong Kong apartments, banking executive husband, live-in servants, a driver, designer clothing, pri ...more
Cynthia Muchnick
Feb 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing

An interesting family experiment. Clavel takes us on an anecdotal journey across the globe to explore educational systems in Asia and the USA. She is honest about what she sees, endures some personal suffering along the way, and her research is sound. Her family unit serves as the guinea pigs that experience a variety of schools, communities, teaching styles, and philosophies. She backs up her observations with statistics, interviews, and boots-on-the-ground visits and interviews at a variety of
Sep 05, 2019 rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this book, and it has many good insights, but it has quite a few problems, as well. For one, Clavel is writing from a place of incredible financial and educational privilege and seems mostly unaware of it. The majority of her advice simply isn't feasible for the average working class family. The people who would realistically be able to take advantage of her advice- Travel internationally! Teach your children a second language! Get the NYT delivered!- are the ones who don ...more
Renae Lucas-Hall
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I don’t have children but I was keen to read this book because I attended a prestigious private school in Melbourne, I studied the Japanese language and culture as well as French and Italian at university, I taught English to Japanese adults and children for many years, I’ve lived in Australia, Japan and the UK for extended periods and I graduated from two top universities in Australia. Teru Clavel’s candid approach combined with her thoroughly researched suggestions and ideas as well as her fri ...more
Mark Renton
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Teru's journey combines insights not only into Asian education systems and the stark contrast with the United States, but is part travel journal, part parenting manual, and perhaps most importantly, a commentary for our time on the cultural attributes of three modern societies. At a time when political winds have come to question globalism, Teru casts light on two countries which have benefitted most from global integration, while steadfastly maintaining their traditions and heritage.

The iPhone
Kriti | Armed with A Book
I wanted to read this book because it talks about topics close to my heart. All my school education was in India and I moved to Canada for graduate studies. My passions led me to pursue a teaching degree and I recently spent an amazing time with junior high students during my final placements. The Canadian education system is similar in some ways to the United States, that Teru goes into detail in this book. The Indian education system shares similarities with China and Japan. Through World Clas ...more
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an incredibly well researched book by education consultant, Teru Clavel. This is a debut novel for her that shares her children’s school experience in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Tokyo. She also critiques American education. As an educator, I devoured this book! She redefines mastery and talks about everything from class size (class size actually doesn’t matter too much), teacher certs, how anything below 95% is considered failing (America it is around the 65% mark), and so much more. I als ...more
Didi Zhou
Jul 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very interesting comparison of education systems in the US, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Japan in the view of one mother who moves across these different countries. The author does come from a background of privilege that allows her and her family to move so often. Although she attempts to be cognizant of this, the privilege is evident across the book through her suggestions on how involved parents should be and what students should be doing outside of school. Despite this, the book discusses what w ...more
Wenyu Zhao
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education
Comparing education systems is a well explored topic. However, author Teru Clavel’s book is fresh because it is also a memoir of her own and her family’s experiences in different countries and schools, a parent’s guide to navigating education, and a thoughtfully researched commentary on the societies and educational ideologies of the countries she experiences. Clavel’s unique circumstances essentially allow her to perform a comparative education experiment on her own family as they live in Hong ...more
Abdulahi Dohe
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Easy to Read - Quality Content

Enjoyed this read. It opened my mind on a lot of issues on education and educating children. Recommend for every parent.
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Teru Clavel gives the reader 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 Alt ...more
Sarah Bidwell
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education
I want my kids (both my own and my students) to understand the purpose of their education. It was for this reason I put “World Class” by Teru Clavel on my summer reading list.

From the book’s description I knew I would read about a Mother’s journey with her children and their schooling in the US and abroad. What I did not know was how spot-on, well-researched, and relatable this book would be.

World Class is the heart-felt narrative of a mother, the author Teru, and her three children. Over the c
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As I read this book, I absolutely enjoyed the journey with the author. Teru and her family left their hometown New York to live in three different cities in Asia. I, as a mother of two grown-up children who have gone through a transition from Japanese to American school system, can imagine how hard it must have been for her children to get acclimated to new cultures and eventually thrive in those systems. Her story depicts their transition process with candor and humor - from shock and concerns ...more
Nina West
Aug 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When I started the book, I admit to being a bit skeptical about what I would gain from the author’s experience educating her children abroad. After all, when I was raising my children, there were only so many school options. At our American public suburban school, I couldn’t imagine having much power to influence the educational experience for my elementary school aged children. However, once I got into the book, it was clear to me that there was a lot to learn here. By the middle of the book, I ...more
Annie Pasma
Nov 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult, education
I enjoyed learning about other educational systems. Although not in education myself, it is something I am interested in learning more about. There were many things that I can appreciate about the Asian educational system. For one thing, mastering the basics IS key when learning anything. The deductive reasoning, especially for math class, makes no sense whatsoever. How you deduce anything if you don't know the basics first?

As I said, I liked learning about other educational systems and I can o
Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I had my oldest son in poverty. He got into a gifted school, and sometimes as a young mother people give me attitude and look down on me. They assume I abused the welfare system or had some advantage as a low-income person to get in. When they realize my son was not admitted based on income but on pure test score, they are puzzled. What I really did is much of what Teru discusses that happened in China-I made the very best out of little resources.

I recommended this book to a friend in Seattle w
Zibby Owens
Nov 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is about how the author and her family left New York to live overseas. They enrolled their children in public schools with fully immersive cultural and linguistic experiences. This book empowers parents, educators, and legislators to understand what's going on overseas, what we do well, and what we could be doing better in the US.

It's pretty clear by comparing Asia and US education systems that we are not doing as good a job in the US as we could be doing. In America, we spend a lot of
Gwendolyn S
Jan 30, 2020 rated it did not like it
An author who writes from a place of privilege and spends very little time talking about her own children's education. Instead it is all her interpretation of research, theories, facts, and figures and lists to guide you through a system that if enacted will lead you to be a labeled an "obnoxious parent distrustful of teachers and education systems." Planning on donating this book to a Bay Area Goodwill because I wouldn't subject a friend to reading it. ...more
Lawrence Goodman
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"Must read" if you are an expat parent in Asia or an educator in the United States. This book answers questions about how they do it. It also should be of great interest to any American wanting a first hand view of how Chinese and Japanese cultures compare with American culture. It's a good read filled with experienced based advice. ...more
Brian Platzer
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
World Class made me see education in an entirely new way. It was well-researched, compellingly argued, and entertaining from the first page to the last. Clavel illustrates her perspective with stories from her own life and evidence from others'. As a parent and teacher, I was riveted to every page. ...more
Sep 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
As a high school teacher in America, this eye-opening memoir is inspiring and frustrating.
I knew conceptually how other countries educate their next generation, but seeing it through the eyes of someone who lived and actively studied it tells me I can do so much more for my students.
Xiaochao Zhang
Nov 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It was fun reading. Also as an Asian mom rising kids in the US. I feel so connected.
I generally do not like memoirs. This is especially the case with memoirs by parents about their experiences in raising and especially educating their children. With the best of intentions, it is difficult to even confront the limitations of perspective and potential biases that arise when you are considering the education of your own kids given the wide range of educational experiences available in the US today. Everyone has their stories.

Ms. Clavel has located her story in a “sweet spot” for d
Nov 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: parenting
I love/hate this book. Some sections were 5-star, others were 0 stars. 3 is the middle rating, but this book certainly was not average. It might make a good book club book because it is sure to provoke opinions!

There are sections I love: an educated woman talking about thoughtfully making the best choices for her children. Exploring other cultures for parenting and education practices.

There were some sections that terrified me: Her radical political views are interspersed with her writing in hea
Cheri Blomquist
Mar 29, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-read
I read this book quickly and enjoyed it very much. It is similar to Little Soldiers, by Lenora Chu, and really made me think about the state of U.S. education in comparison to the world, as well as the ideals of a global vs. national focus. It was fascinating to see the differences in educational systems between Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokya, and Palo Alto (CA).

Still, I gave it three stars for a couple of reasons. First, structurally it threw me off at the end. She took her time with sharing her st
Jon Keeling
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Teru Clavel weaves together a useful combination of education research, personal experience dealing with school systems in several international locations, and a colorful description of family life in various places and circumstances along the way, offering advice to other parents based on her research and experience traveling the world in search of superior education opportunities for her kids.

As a teacher for 35 years, and having a passion for improving my own teaching skills and training oth
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Teru Clavel is a comparative education expert and author. Teru has written columns on education for the Japan Times and the Financial Times, and she has made appearances on Fareed Zakaria's GPS, The TODAY Show, CBS This Morning, CNBC’s Squawk Box, and Channel NewsAsia. She has also been interviewed on countless radio shows and podcasts. Teru spent a decade raising her family in Asia (Hong Kong, Sh ...more

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